‘The city full of new things already foresaw it’
The cathedral is robust:
concrete, angular, brutalist,
but not brutal: a building
of the people with its carpark facade,
a fort of resilient faith,
seeing off sea air, hurricanes,
and tourists. In the café
of the covered market, a thimble
of coffee is the best restorative
to help you navigate the yards
of pig fat and the funky miasma
of rotting greens. The stores
offer nude dolls languishing
on porcelain grasslands,
but, elsewhere, ersatz mannequins
are decked out in strips of Barcelona
and Real. It’s tempting to wonder
why the world turns generic,
sliced like a banana across time zones
and continents. Still, far from home,
you can find strange comfort
in the common language
of Lionel Messi’s gifts. The sign
for the English Methodist School
offers my grandmother’s faith,
as I squat on a street corner
eating zingy ceviche in the shade.
‘Who are you then? Where do these affairs of harbours suddenly come from?’
We toured the backstreets of the old town,
inside the bright cinema of midday sun.
In the plaza, edgy restaurateurs
offered squid ink and pickled meat,
and the households of grand families
competed in a war of bougainvillea.
Carnival played in the alleyways,
the masks of jaguar and donkey
chased each other through the shadows.
The T-shirt sellers called for attention
with jaunty cries of ‘yoo-hoo!’
although the chess players in the park
focussed on patient Danish Gambits
while the palm trees exploded
over the route to the residential quarter.
Fortunes made from slavery and silver,
played out through the harbour,
and the new city spiked into blades
through the slaughter of a coke war,
while mosquitos, fat with blood,
hummed through the heaviness.
Looking for the heart of Cartagena,
we lost the path. No soy de ningún lugar
the graffiti claimed. I am no one.
Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been published in numerous places, including Blackbox Manifold, Structo and The Stinging Fly. His chapbook Arboreal Days was published by Red Ceilings Press, and his first collection West South North, North South East is published by The High Window.