By Deborah Casillas

Featured Image: “Standing Bull” by Jean Bernard

The days dragged on, steady ticking of the clock.
My mother’s cancer; surgery, injections, drugs.
Long afternoons I sat in my grandfather’s library
looking at books. Shelves of books about bullfighting—
la lidia, combat; la corrida, the running of the bulls.
Books on Manolete, Belmonte, Joselito,
his copies of The Brave Bulls, Blood and Sand,
Death in the Afternoon. Books aficionados collect,
those fanatic followers of the taurine subculture.
I stacked volumes beside me, looked at pictures
of the black bulls, studied their deadly horns,
the ritual sacrifice. Here were portraits of the famous
matadors, their lives venerated like the lives of saints.

They posed in their suits of lights, satin encrusted with gold
embroidery, glittering skin-tight suits that left no wrinkle
for a horn to catch. The heavy two-faced capes, one side
yellow, the other pink, the blood-red scraps of flannel
that hide the sword. Here the lean, mournful face
of Manolete, here the snapshot of Islero, the Miura bull
that killed him. I saw, too, the terrified, blindfolded
horses, the picador’s barbed lance, the bull sinking
to his knees, dark stains on raked sand. All the women
in the photographs wore red carnations in their hair.

Deborah Casillas, originally from California, lives in Santa Fe, NM. Her poems have been published in various journals including Squaw Valley Review, Silk Road Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, New Ohio Review, Whitefish Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Bosque Journal, and Passager. Three poems are in an anthology, Under the Volcano, from Tepoztlán, Mexico. Her book of poetry, Quiet at the Edge, was released in October.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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