Mudlark Poster No. 83 (2009)

Galicia 1986 | Nick Ripatrazone

Nick Ripatrazone’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Sou’wester, The Los Angeles Review, and The New York Quarterly. He lives with his wife in northern New Jersey and is pursuing an MFA from Rutgers University.

Galicia 1986


I need to find my brother
after I lower clothes down the well
in a bucket slung from rope, tin
clinking the slate walls.  I know
when it reaches water because a trill
rides the jute and itches my wrists.
While the laundry soaks,
I draw wide-eared faces in dirt
with arched sneakers, then drag
the heavy clothes upward, rope wrapped
around sleeves, never skin.
I scrub goat milk soap along cotton,
drub across washboards ridged
like thin ribs.  After three hours
of full sun the shirts will become crispy,
crinkled and starched.  New forms.


I need to find my brother
but Pablo twirls his finger in froth
until beige foam settles into the cola.
My stomach burns from lentejas
left in the sun, a fleshy film
swabbed across the top
that tasted so sweet.  Heat
has a way of turning things.
After cola comes café,
tan and auburn swirls, sugar
like gold, held to his teeth.
Aguardiente shifts in the light.
He points at the sun and looks
straight into its glare, never
having to squint.  I have had enough
of bright things.


I need to find my brother,
not Dolores y Andrea.  Their mother
has two bull-brown cows, Chica
and Paloma.  We rub their round
bellies but will never touch
their udders, awkward and full.
Pans pile in the barn coated
from milk left in the sun; we
could peel the white back like glue
dried on a desk.  Andrea has pink
pastillas for her feet.  Her mother
burns the socks rather than washing
them, stuffing the cotton into coals
while the smell curdles under smoke.
Those cows.  Doe-eyed, and dumb.
So heavy and sweating.

I need to find my brother
though Francalina fills Coke bottles
with milk, stuffs them in plastic bags
printed with two Gallegos, fists raised.
We still hate Franco but she keeps
portraits of him, a new Jesus, olive
skin oiled beneath the quartz chandelier. 
We swim in the irrigation tank, water
a deep green, whirlpool from wind.
Francisco wobbles to the trough.
His left leg shorter than the right.
He rifles pebbles at the pigs:
one hit between their hot eyes
will turn them wild. 
I watch him miss, then settle
underwater, my eyes still open.

I need to find my brother,
so I let Dolores y Andrea flap
and flop.  Swallow the tank
water and wake with sore throats.
Francalina will wrap ice rolled
in a dishtowel round their necks.
Sun dries me while I run past
Tio Eulogio’s cherry and apple
trees, patchworked pink and white.
Crabbed apples bruised and purpled
in dirt, balls of wet flesh, boiled
and stringy.  Stinking, stuck
to my bare feet.  The path curves
through a carport, past a Vespa
tattooed with Deportivo emblems,
front tire sagged like heavy skin. 

I need to find my brother.
He is nineteen, and I know
he is in La Ulfe, cigar smoke
heavy like chocolate. Old men
line dominoes across pocked tables
and my brother’s girl leans
against the window, skin on glass.
Sophia is from Lisboa.  Younger
than Tomás, older than me, she
connects us.  He is loose
with his words and leaves us,
brushing elbows, carrying silent
grudges, collected whims, claims
her eyes wander.  More than his eyes
do: he finds a girl from Vigo,
hair stuffed behind thin ears.


I need to know my brother
but Sophia drags me outside.
Behind the bar women drown
dishtowels in a shallow pond:
The one on the left, pregnant
at fifteen, still carries a soft stomach.
I fear such marks of sex,
stretching of body.  We run
into the treeline where wild boars
have been seen, patched hair
spiked, showing pale, pink skin. 
Sophia says a boy was mauled
last winter, his spine exposed
like white rope.  She does not
look scared, does not need Tomás.
I have made my choice.

I try to remember my brother
while Sophia plucks moras
from low branches, handfuls
bleeding blue onto her violet
dress.  She licks her palms
and I lay back on the ground,
hands finding new leaves.
Tomás squeezes my wrist
and I wake to the cold;
he smells of Vigo, warns me
about eating anything wild.
God, he is right, he knows
the pain I feel, kneading
my abdomen in front of the toilet.
I lean against the hamper
and pray for heat again.

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