At the market door, our hands clutch knobbly
parcels, our eyes assess streaming skies,
our umbrella is suddenly small.
We know, never lasts in Cuenca, but retract
heads inside the vast shell of mercado,
walk up the immobile escalator
to lunch stalls upstairs. Each tiny kitchen
with a table or two at rail’s edge,
market below. Birds fly in, out.
We settle on a stall, order almuerzo
are pointed to a table. Beautiful boys
in school uniforms spill off benches,
clean the table. Sons, grandsons
of the proprietor, after school
reserving seats and in seconds we have
arroz y pescado, golden fried whole fish,
rice, beans, and spoon spicy
sauce from the open bowl over all.
A Cuencan couple sits,
“¡Buenos dias!” all around.
“¿You like the fish?” the man asks.
“¡Ah, si!”, discover tender white flesh,
pick bones. Sweet, and the tail a tasty
crunch. Spoons and shared knife. Server
busy elsewhere. Last bones bared, we
leave to make room, full, content.
The next sitters will know
dos tenedores, two forks, though Cuenca
seems to eat lunch with a spoon.
Our meal talisman against rain, we count
good fortune like shining pennies to be
in this place, skies now fair
without. And the charm that enfolds
that beast diez de agosto and all
its cellular creatures, extends beyond
mere carapace — until
unwitting feet trespass
some nebulous boundary, the outer frontier
to the realm of the undulant creature and
beyond all spell of luck or gold
comes the deluge.
(veinte y cinco de marzo, 2013)