The year I owned a motorcycle and split the air
in southern Spain, and could smell the oranges
in the orange groves as I passed them
outside of Seville, I understood
I’d been riding too long in cars,
probably even should get a horse,
become a high-up, flesh-connected thing
among the bulls and cows.
My brand-new wife had a spirit
that worried and excited me, a history
of moving on. Wine from a spigot for pennies,
langostinas and angulas, even the language
felt dangerous in my mouth. Mornings,
our icebox bereft of ice,
I’d speed on my motorcycle to the iceman’s house,
strap a big rectangular block
to the extended seat where my wife often sat
hot behind me, arms around my waist.
In the streets the smell of olive oil,
the noise of men torn between church
and sex, their bodies taut, heretical.
And the women, buttoned-up,
or careless, full of public joy, a Jesus
around their necks.
Our neighbors showed us how to shut down
in the afternoon,
the stupidity of not respecting the sun.
They forgave us who we were.
Evenings we’d take turns with the Herald Tribune
killing mosquitoes, our bedroom walls bloody
in this country known for blood;
we couldn’t kill enough.
When the Levante, the big wind, came out of Africa
with its sand and heat, disturbing things,
it brought with it a lesson, unlearnable,
of how far a certain wildness can go.
Our money ran out. I sold the motorcycle.
We moved without knowing it
to take our quieter places in the world.


Stephen Dunn


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