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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 7: March 2021
Tanka Prose: 286 words
By Charles D. Tarlton

Spanish Chestnuts


At the end of the alley that ran behind our hotel in Mundaka was the little harbor, with a tiny sandy beach where they sometimes pulled up the smaller fishing boats. Today the beach was empty except for a rough plank raft pulled partially up on the sand. Every kind of flammable junk was piled up on it—old boards, scraps of cardboard, newspaper, dead tree branches, pieces of wooden furniture, a mattress, wooden boxes, and even some driftwood.

down around the boats
my imagination whirled
and I was local
an old Spanish fisherman
telling tourists my stories

I don’t want to go
home. Just let me be Spanish
go out with the fleet
come home to tortilla de cebolla
peseta glasses of tinto

It was nearly dusk on the last day of Sanjuanada, and the whole town of Mundaka was preparing the passacaglia that would bear the tall, elaborate, stuffed witch with eyes that glowed as they paraded her through the streets in a long, snaking procession, with drums pounding furiously and the Basque flutes trilling. In the end, they’d arrive at the harbor and hoist the witch up onto the pile of fuel on the raft, and set it all on fire and, then, push the burning witch-barge out into the little harbor. There’d be much singing and praying and cheering as the conflagration gradually burned down to a hiss and disappeared in the darkness.

it was just nineteen
years after the War and Spain
still had narrow roads
and pensiones where room
and board was 100 pesatas

in processions were
strange men who dressed like Jesus
and carried crosses
whipping themselves for love of
Christ. Oh, for the love of Christ!



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