Pure Slush

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by Ron Campbell


I’m leaving you, Madrid.

After countless cafe con leche’s and kilos of Bocadillos

After too many bad beers

And pitchers of worse sangria

With their flotillas of unidentifiable fruit.

After getting my jam on with way too much jamon

I am leaving you.


I’m leaving you and your ladies who stroll in their mink stoles

Past your graffiti dappled porticoes so un apologetically.

I’m leaving your old Caballeros who shuffle sad in the shade of the poplars

And wear their hats so un ironically.

I’m leaving your skinny-jeaned hipsters

Their fingers as spindly as a Velasquez saint.

Your flamenco dancers lounging on park benches

Their skin as luminous as an El Greco martyr.

I’m leaving your wives on trains

With their lipstick the color of a Goya bloodstain.


I have been here long enough.


I know it doesn’t rain in Madrid.

The mourning sky cries to fill its gutters with inconsolable tears.

I know that.

I know the sun doesn’t shine in Madrid.

It splashes the balconies with a Conquistadorian gold.


I know your flair for the dramatic, Madrid.


I also know Madrid is haunted by itself.

I know there are memories that masquerade as shadows here.

That shafts of light as sharp as knives stain the cobblestones of Calle de Couchilleros.

I know that old couples hold hands on their evening paseo through El Retiro Park.

I know the thieves who stand spread eagled by cops who frisk them half heartedly while laying out a smorgasbord of cell phones on the hood of a rented Spoda on Gran Via.

I know that in the hills of Casa de Campo

Where gypsies pitch tents

And revolutionaries once spilt blood

The ghosts of dead ghosts whisper fragments of forgotten love songs.

I’ve heard them.


I know that meanwhile on the gum strewn Avenida de General Alvarez de Castro

The men in Madrid are arguing.

Men in Madrid can argue about how nice a day it is.

Men in Madrid can argue about how much they agree with one another.


Madrid is the place to write a novel, catch a hacking cough, grow a beard, eat potato chips, get murdered.

Necessarily in that order.


There are only two times in Madrid.

Too late and too early.


I know Madrid lures you with its daylight

Then drenches you in an illicit and delicious darkness.

I know if the shadows snore the homeless are there.


I know, Madrid, who you are.

I know you are a balding man over-proud of his mustache.

I know you are a beautifully carved seraphim stained with countless nocturnal urinations.

I know you are also a gypsy begging on the subway steps

Only a leathery hand holding a plastic cup protruding from a carcass of blankets.

I know you are a cigarette, its angle prescribed by the pugnaciousness of the smokers’ lip celebrating its own funeral

As a pigeon craps on Cervantes’ pate.


I know no one litters as well as a man born and bred in Madrid.


There are days though, in Madrid

When I know you are also the woman who steps onto the train with hair so black it’s blue and curls designed to entwine.

With the greenest of eyes under brows as arched as a Moorish gate.

A haughty hottie, so beautiful that just looking at you ties a little knot in the silken cord of me.

A woman with a nose like the prow of a ship and a demeanor so imperious I don’t know whether to pray to you or dive between your thighs.

A woman a matador would die for, a painter would dedicate his masterpiece to and men would fight duels with those who dared to not call you Doná.

I know, Madrid, you have a tragic air.


I also know that if I’m up at five am

And I listen to the silence that falls between the sirens and the clangs and clunks of the garbage collectors I can hear it:

An echo of the dark breeze that was blowing here back in the golden age when you wouldn’t think of crossing the town without a cloak

And a dagger was de rigeur.


I know Madrid smells of stale cigars, stagnant fountain water and pomp.

I know Madrid tastes like ashes and history, church candles and unwashed necks.


I know Madrid drowns you in itself.

Creates a Madrid sized shape around you

Full of alleys known and unknown,

Banisters that were once barricades,

And statues with wings.


So I’m leaving you, Madrid.

With your shattered confidence

Your lazy bravery

Your vandalized grandeur.




published 19 February 2014