The men from the council
Three waste containers
Next to the church.
It’s about time
Now there’s hardly anyone left
In the village:
With an old cow
And four chickens.
All the young men
Or on the roads.
Now and again they’ll bring back a girl
And they always say:
“this is so lovely”
And “what a lovely village”
But end up going back where they came from.
Eight days ago today,
Marcial died from the Xuaca house.
Seventy years old.
Thirty underground. Miner.
In the morning
When I went to throw out the rubbish
I saw his clothes in some bags
Inside one of the recently-installed containers.
Is this what is left of a man when he dies?
Is this the trace we leave?
Shadows of memory
And a rank greasy smell of sadness
I picked this book up because I was attracted by the title Robinson Astur (Universos: Mieres, 2008). In Spain generally there is a tendency to put your regional identity forward strongly: in León the market will be MercaLeon, in Bilbao the buses are Bilbobus and here the shopping centre is ParqueAstur. The Astures were the pre-Roman indigenous people about whom little is known besides the pejorative things the Romans had to say about them. They did not have a literary culture and seemed to have a tribal culture like the Highland Scots, living by hunting and raiding cattle. Veiga is making Robinson Crusoe into an Astur.
So the title is an ironic joke. I like irony in blogs and satire but it is dangerous in serious writing. The collection does a good job of keeping itself this side of outright dark humour as you can see in this poem. When I read it to myself I enjoyed it, but when I read it out loud to Carmen to see whether she would give it the thumbs up for the blog it became something else: the last three lines were like a slap in the face; it acquired a new intensity. The mention of the miner Marcial made me think of the Roman poet Martial. He was born in Calatayud and said he was descended from Celts and Iberians and also had a good way with a sharp ending.
Here is another poem called The Transformation:
I’ve made myself a scuzz-ball
With bad breath
And unshaven face,
One of those vegetables who spend the day
Lounging on the sofa,
With the TV going
And a belly full of beer.
Damn the day I left you for no reason,
No reason other than that you loved me too much:
My life is now a topsy turvey house,
A rudderless boat, with no pattern,
In hopeless misery.
I who could run five thousand metres
In less than twenty minutes,
I who whistled in the shower in the mornings,
I who changed the sheets
What happened to me, Gregor Samsa?
What animal or monster
Have I been changed into now?