Welcome to the castle


Stalwart under setting sun she waits
in the ancient gateway
for the tired and happy holidaymakers.

Her handsome head is tilted with a smile,
eyebrows raised like the curve of arches
over the cooling threshold.

Her bright words carry us up the steps.
She is somewhat short of breath
but rich in laughter and knowledge.

Tiny black warts
on the upper slopes of her bosom
twinkle as dark as her eyes.

We tramp over huge flagstones
each with a memory to cover -
memories with stings in their tails.

“Come to the stables, the dining-hall.
See the pattern of pillars round the courtyard,
signifying dangerous, secret knowledge.

“The Knights Templar – you know – once were here
before the monks with their chanting
before the lord moved in with his booty:

“his bedroom is here
and this stone bench his courting seat
for the lord and lady in their early days.

“Up that cold passageway in the shadows
is the lord’s retrete
for voiding his bowels and his memories.

“Here is the tunnel to the dungeon
- see how artfully it is disguised?
So he could listen to the screams

“of his enemies, as he liked to do
while taking his rest
or counting his money…

“Why did he do that, you ask?”
She shrugs and as she moves
sweat slowly trickles down her neck.

“It was a kind of … what do you call it …
sadismo - who was it said that…
about man being wolf to man?

“Look down here: you see the terrible pit.
Prisoners dragged to this slab
were knifed or bludgeoned or shot

“- enemies of the lords
of the Carlists, the republicans, the fascists -
who burnt the church – who killed the priest -

“feel the cold and see the dark
hear the echo of their screams:
fading into the dust.

“All toppled into the pit to die
I do not like
to go down there.

“Who can imagine such hatred
when cousin betrayed cousin
and brother killed brother?

“You can understand why
people still won’t talk.
It is too close still …

“Who was it said that man is kin to wolf?
I read it once but cannot recall.”
She swings the heavy door to with a smile.


Aragón, Spain