In spring, in the heart of Andalucia,
the air is heavy with citrus scents;
oranges and lemons grow everywhere,
and throughout the verdant plains
carefully tended olive and almond trees
dapple green and grey in the lifegiving sun.

Last week in the provincial capital
penitents masked in hooded white robes
walked in the Holy Week processions,
while others shouldered the looming statues
of saints, freed from their parish altars
and lovingly adorned for the parades.

On Sunday, the town celebrates the Resurrection
with the first bullfights of the season.
We walk for miles along the alamedas,
breathing in the orange and lemon smells
in the waning of the sultry afternoon.
Every street leads to the Plaza del Toros.

Inside, in the city’s famous arena,
the band plays the traditional music
while the stadium seats fill with the crowd.
Children of six or seven have sweets and sodas,
and add to the fruity citrus-scented air
the smells of canned orange and lemon fizzes.

This procession, too, is a celebration.
The matadors and bandilleros in rich colors
and the picadores on their drably padded horses
parade to great cheers around the bullring.
Each takes his place safely behind the barriers
and the festivities are allowed to begin.

There will be six bullfights this afternoon.
Each is a drama in three acts–no intermissions–
with the band announcing the change of script.
Each of the three matadors will perform twice,
and the outcome of each performance is certain.
The crowd awaits the sacrifice with reverence.

At last the play begins.  A huge black bull
storms into the arena and halts, uncertain.
For the next half-hour he will be toyed with–
pricked with the thorns of darts and lances
and lured into rushing at empty purple capes
until his strength and will to fight are gone.

He has not played this game before, nor will again;
but the men are old hands–the ritual is ancient.
The bull will do his best to make the torment end,
and finally, worn out by futility, draggled and bleeding,
he will stand still and silent in the arena,
calmly awaiting the death he has come to crave.

©1989 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

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