Poetry: El Rastro de Madrid

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Sunday afternoons they break out cigars

After mass to kill the dark smell of sweat

That clings to the faces of men playing

The shell game, smoke swirling from their nostrils,

Rope-scarred hands imploring you to take yours

Out of your pockets for an offering.

Shrunken old ladies armed with little girls

Pull green palm branches out of the garbage,

Wrap them in stale news and sell them for luck

To guilt-drenched browsers and lottery fans.

Up the twisted lane ragged parakeets

Squawk for freedom from this human madness

While women drown them out with hot gossip

Made delicious by holy communion.

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