This poem was previously published in Mslexia magazine, July-August-September 2005, as one of the 25 winners in their 2005 Poetry Competition. I have tried for two hours to publish a pdf of the printed version but am finally giving up and re-typing it here. Perhaps Mslexia will one day make their back catalogue available online.... Or else Google, could you please make it possible to upload a pdf? from Google documents maybe? I would be so very grateful.
Women in Spain
I left the wedding party, headed for the coast.
The train lurched with well-groomed dogs and their matching matrons.
I tried to take up as little space as I could. I thought,
don't try to do anything. Just get to Alicante.
Off-season, the promenade was empty, a forlorn aisle,
wobbly chairs on one side, bare tables on the other.
I lost my way to the pension, the back streets
tracking through the red light district,
where putas stood on corners, hips jutting, coltish.
They crossed themselves as I crossed the street, trying to avoid them.
Like I might be a curse.
Or the latest competition.
At last I found the Hostal Mariá de Jesús. The Señora looked me over,
then asked for cash. A moustached sister counted it
between drags on a cigarette. For the first time that day,
I wanted my mother.
The Señora led me upstairs and unlocked my room. The door
swung inward. There was a single bed, a crucifix and a mirror
where I spent a good hour, gazing at myself in my wedding dress --
and then another, struggling to undo its zipper.