The Moors left cobbled snake trails
and all day you weather them. You are tricked
by bread and olives, by the legend of Barcelos
and decanters of cheap white wine.
White-washed apartments gleam like buttons
in the all-day sun, as if boasting—
the earthquake did not claim us.
Pastries burst into feathers on your tongue.
You eat standing in the street, alone,
and it is almost Africa. There are almonds.
Tin-roofed shanties beneath train tracks
and one folded gypsy in cathedral-shadows.
Your blouses and under-things surrender out the window
unlike angels; black panties butterfly
to the balcony below.
This means you won’t get back here.
Night shakes its cape and suddenly
lanes choke with grilled fish and drunks
glow amber. Patrons crowd entries
to basement Fado clubs and laments smoke
into the lanes. You think of hungry, wide-winged birds.
Port-coloured stains. Keep your back to the wall.
Lisbon is not your legacy, but as wind slings
and strung lights sway above diners
in unlikely places, you feel a kind of home
beneath the clotheslines and red petals
whisked from window boxes, then crushed
beneath sandals and stilettos in the chorus
of long-throated lanes.
Later night, and coal-eyed children
wobble over stones on rust-pocked bikes.
You imagine learning to walk here.
You imagine falling into the spell
of blue-green tiles and beach-light.
The waiter brings a blanket for bare shoulders.
I could see you, he says, shivering.
Haven’t seen the moon since you arrived.