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Jeffrey N. Johnson

Tramposo de Sevilla

Within white washed walls,
weathered stone and blue sky
the Gypsies arrived unseen.
I was green and little traveled,
planted on a bench with back turned,
abiding my time with Hemingway.
He approached with dirty bare feet
on herringbone brick and an open
linen blouse with little tears
in place of lost buttons.
His wedded his palms, held to heaven,
reminding me of our mutual friend,
and could I not share
a little of my good fortune?
He tightened and contorted his back
which would not work,
and gestured to his mate,
to misfortune and fate.
She sat nearby wailing,
swaying on hot stone,
her mosaic of rags flowing
with the four limp legs of her children,
starving, a boy and a girl,
one arched over each arm,
mouths open.
With Jake paused and Brett in mid-sentence
I shuttered and searched
and dug into myself,
putting pesetas into his palm,
wanting to return to my Fiesta.
He bowed in thanks
and limped away to beg
others of different tongues
before returning to his family.
With a bark of crisp dialect
the little ones sprang to life.
The boy wiped his nose
and the girl tugged her dress.
Mother gathered her rags and serenity,
giving each child a kiss.
Father hoisted the boy
to his sturdy shoulders
where he held on tight and starry eyed.
The little girl, walking on tip-toes,
pulled a flower from her pocket
and held it to the sun
as they disappeared
into the narrow streets.
A miracle to behold, I thought,
fingering my change,
or isn’t it pretty to think so?

Jeffrey N. Johnson’s poems have recently appeared in the Southern Poetry Anthology: Virginia, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Gargoyle, Midwest Quarterly, and Santa Clara Review. His story collection “Other Fine Gifts” won a regional Ippy Award, which included the Andrew Lytle Fiction Prize winner from The Sewanee Review, and his novel “The Hunger Artist” was a finalist for the Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award. His poetry film “One Old, One Young” has been an official selection in ten film festivals.

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