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Poetry of Issue #8        Page 65

MOURNING TRAVEL


My last trip before the lockdown
was to Spain. I didn’t go to learn more about
Conquistadors, bullfights, the Inquisition.
I went

to visit cities where Moslems built majestic buildings
and Jews served them as doctors, diplomats, viziers—
both religions attaining heights
they would not see again for centuries,
if ever.

Their golden ages warmed me
like the sun of Andalusia.

When Catholics forced the Moslems out,
they didn’t trash the heathen mosques—
they turned some into churches,
adding frescoes beyond
the zebra-striped arches.

Same with the Alhambra,
whose chambers married lacy stone,
patterned tiles and psychedelic
calligraphy—
next to courtyards so calm,
Spanish royals chose to live there.

This is why I travel—to marvel and understand.

I am not alone.
Until a few months ago,
tourists zig-zagged the earth in droves,
disrupting wildlife in the Galapagos,
killing coral on the Great Barrier Reef,
lining up to see sunrise over the temple at Angkor Watt.

Then a virus boarded a jet.

I know the young will journey again someday,
but I worry about their parents and grandparents.
Myself.

In my heart, I have a box of dreams.
Inside it, I am
walking through sandstone arches in Utah,
wandering English gardens,
riding a double-decker
with my husband in London.

I’m swimming in the Indian Ocean,
savoring chateaux in France,
dropping my jaw before
the jagged peaks of Patagonia.

The body aches and breaks a little further
each year. Will I leave the world
before I see it?

  Jacqueline Coleman-Fried