In the Alfama
In the Alfama everyone smokes. My
lungs, with their love of
tightening, close slightly
as soon as I walk into the air.
In the Alfama all streets are
more than cobbled, less than tiled.
In the Alfama the pasteis de nata
are always warm and doused
in cinnamon. Dogs wear bandannas
and are leadless.
In the Alfama they sing Fado all
night, and when they are finished,
have loud and heedless
conversations outside windows.
In the Alfama skylarks wheel, and
the wine and song lingers while people
smile or scowl, embrace or avoid,
put up with tourists, walk
children to school, smoke
in doorways, and remember the night.
In the Alfama they sing, every night.
Hearts are strong, from treading hills.
The streets have taught them how to love.
In the Alfama there are always cigarette butts between paving stones.
A man waits until he has passed me to spit.
On the old sandstone, graffiti that says SUZI ♡ NINES.
In the Alfama there is a woman with a knotted rope lead
wound around her chest and under her shoulder.
Next to her a tawny dog as high as my hip.
When my back is turned he jumps at me,
and I am glad of the contact from a body,
any body, that holds blood, and muscle; a beating heart.
In the Alfama I crouch in laneways to write.
No one finds this unusual.
Birds hang from washing lines in cages.
The number 28 tram, famous, dings and rattles past.
Taken over by tourists. I stay back, because I know
it is better to walk, so
poems can find me.
In the Alfama the poems find me.
In the Alfama a woman jumps in
stars to keep herself warm
while the sun drops from the sky.
In the Alfama Fado, the song of the people,
is sung by women with voices
so strong they almost break me.
In the Alfama, a globe’s half turn away
from all that I know,
I am home.
On the metro
Yesterday, on the metro, I
heard an approaching accordion.
I smiled, because music on trains
does that. And when I turned
to see who was making the song,
saw a man walking down the aisle,
playing, a tiny dog on his left
shoulder, balanced neatly,
holding a small bucket
between its teeth to collect coins.
When I dropped my euros (fat coins, double rimmed) in,
I misjudged the distance, and
briefly felt the dog’s gums as I
found my way to the opening. Saw pink speckled
black. Noticed the dog slightly overbalance, then correct.
The man paused while this happened, a touch, a tip,
the wet, that coining plink: their dinner.
Obrigado, said the man. The dog,