Paula Rodriguez

My Love to Lobelia

In the fragile years after the Spanish Civil War, two desperadoes board the first train out of
poverty, the yellowed Castilian fields around them desolate. The train cuts cleanly through the
night, like a whistle: They do not know where they are going. With the first morning lights, they
find themselves amongst the rich, scented lands of the northwest, where the rivers flow without end, and a blanket of stars envelops the nights into the path of centuries. They don’t know it yet, but the elder of the two brothers will become the owner of a fish factory. The daughter of the man who owns the port transportation company, a beauty of twenty-three, with gray eyes and unending legs, will catch his eye, and twenty-eight years later, I will be the first born to their daughter, Carmen. Then, my grandmother will find out that he had a lover.

While he is at home with his wife,
my only vengeance is to cry.
Sometimes, a camellia;
sometimes, a furtive smile on a rainy day.

I weep and pray that he’ll be mine
for he charmed me into a wanton life.
Sometimes, a clandestine gaze;
sometimes, a dinner by candlelight.

He cajoled me and I accepted,
I gave in to his persistent tempting.
Sometimes, the reaching of hands over dessert;
sometimes, the lure of lust untrenched. 

One early afternoon, while shopping, my mother said to me: “Don’t look at that woman. She was your grandfather’s lover.” I turned around and curiously looked her straight in the eye: Poorly dyed blond hair, heavy, weatherbeaten figure, the weight of pain in her step. I thought of the nurturing grace of my grandmother. Undefeated.