the poetry that matters

Richard McCullough

Richard McCullough was born in Vancouver and studied English lit. at McGill.  Some of his poetry has appeared in student journals Montage and Pillar.  Since then, he has been travelling, teaching and writing in Europe.  He currently lives in Granada, Spain. 



Late afternoon the sun sits on the mountain tops mellow and the streaking clouds above it turn pink and glowing red.  Pet canaries are unveiled to sing and the ancient walls light up the populous slope.  I was just thinking that, when the landlord interrupted and told me in a language I don’t understand that the power had been cut off until tomorrow it will be a cold night.


So I played a song that had been going around my head all day and contemplated a move downstairs to the apartment that served as Juan’s utility room.  “Baby take a ride, hurt yourself, want some help, help myself.”  Rather sleep in my own bed even if the room will be an ice box.  Or sleep in a strange bed with a heater makes the room look like the Red Planet, not unlike the ones in B.P.G. glaring on that Catcher poster.


The batteries are running low.  I told her that I had run out of a bit of juice and didn’t really mean it the way she repeated it. The way she spoke would make you feel the same way, as if what you said sounded base.  I loved it the most.


The crescent moon thinly pokes through the disrobing sky.   O you’re always going through some torture, she said, when I mentioned I’d picked up a blanket from the street to keep warm. Smells like the discard of some female Erasmus student.


“Promise you, haven’t you.”  Four bright rose bars between two dark clouds like a zebra’s hide being ripped apart.  See how, in perspective, the chimney roof looks like a coliseum and they took the time to carve a theatre in the mountain facing the volcano.

“Maybe she would like more food.”  The night ritual presses.  Notes must be left up on doors.  There are hours to go.






Juan coughs in the bathroom and mutters something in unintelligible Spanish.  It was a rough night.  I wonder when he’ll leave I wonder when he’ll just get out and get on with things and fix the bloody place.  Some kind of “Three’s Company” joke what a joker.  “My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night?”  I heard her up and down the stairs with the dogs at all hours of the morning.  If it wasn’t for that candle I’d have died I was choking but in the darkness there it was lasted all night long. 


On their way to auntie’s place the car broke down in the mountains.  The man left his wife and young daughter in the car and got lost searching for help.  Found him a few hundred meters away in a creek bed in the snow.  A broken leg it was too late must have succumbed thirsty.   


The finches rise up as the morning fog burns off.  Grey slowly gives way to luminous glow.  The man is almost finished now it’s enough for the day.  Do yourself a favor and buy a belt keep the overalls up with something besides a shoestring.  Shoestring budget but the guy is loaded I know it.   Probably owns the bloody place and likes to putter around in it.  Get a garden, get on, all the pretty flowers can’t be taken home. 


The sun bursts and floods of light pour into the tenement.  “Hasta luego,” he says.  He’s done and there’s sun.   “Muchas gracias,” I say, not really meaning it but sorry I was so hard on the old guy.    





 All the stores are closed and the shadows line the hot adobe walls like razors.  A languid desolation in the heavy atmosphere it is no time to be walking.  I carried on thinking of her alone.  The things I should have done or said earlier and all my flaws become apparent in the dusky palm trees.  I wonder what pretty little thing had driven me to believe in romance. 


A shimmer of heat scans across the valley and the condors hitch a ride on the updrafts.  See so many fire ants in a bobbling knot, drowning in the civic fountain.   She said she wouldn’t have picked them up for fear of a sting and letting nature take her course and what a fool I was to have tried to rescue them coz they’re probably half frozen.   The pebbles that pave the streets are laid with frames, not by hand in that design.  This isn’t the way I remembered it either.


How many more of those suns are left in number?  The angst that makes up the difference in sum takes away from its total existence.  There is a stone sphinx in the estate grounds guarding the rose garden.  If she gives you a wink it’s less than you think, if she gives you the eye it’s more than today.


I wished myself into solitude and regretted my fancies.  I ached with a sickness in my stomach and a lost soul.  But there were affairs and businesses to be done in order to maintain human comforts.  I carried on thinking of her alone.



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