Let me tell you about loose women, girls on high, groupie runaways and the immaculate mother. In a city of old convents they walk silent in white dresses, the crowd parts, no one asks questions or takes photos but evil tourists like me write poetry. A park with orange trees, colonial wealth and a duck pond — an avenue with a grand hotel — a café and restaurant, they bear the princesses’ names, Juana Fernanda Maria. And when you walk past the cathedral, you can hear a shrill choir reaching out beyond the silver mines’ silver bars. Let me tell you about muses and harems, her eyes are like the lilac sky or I will put lilacs in her hair and roses across her hips and everything will smell as sweet, her laugh is the early greedy sun. Do you know who this bath belongs to? Do you believe the things they say about Catherine the Great? Now imagine a clear pool of water not centuries old, fresco tiles on the wall, and the concubine — merchant girl, an aristocratic dream, smiling as she cleans her skin. She kicks out the guards and the chaperones, a conqueror enters and the door closes and they speak about the beauty of Moorish architecture for hours. Feed each other fruit and throw the seeds in the water. The land is plenty, so there are people unknown who will pick them out again. They will kneel and wipe the dirt off of the marble. The king, as the legend says — Peter of Castile — had a wife from France who went back home the very night of their wedding ceremony, it is unlikely that they ever again met. She threw off her ring into a gutter beneath horses’ feet, wiped her red lips clean once more and feasted on the Pyrenee night. But she is not our hero, because she was not in love and there is nothing we can know about what happens from then on, in the body or the soul. Back to Maria de Padilla. There are souvenir mugs that bear her name. The lonely young king met her every night and executed his stepbrother (of one of his father’s other whores!) in a room with pomegranates and Christ. Women who faint are revived with salts, women can die of a broken heart or hysteria, Teresa of Avila revived Spanish monasticism and got an oil painting in the Sevillian cathedral where she dreams forever of auditory hallucinations and how the dark grew light. The bather died of tuberculosis with many sons. She was a hero and now she is a featuring attraction on the tour of the Alcazar, Peter’s palace with polylobulated arches, diamonds, and lines from the Quran that appealed to the eye of the Catholic king. Word was sent to the Vatican, along with the tribute of alligators and tiger claws and sugar from the Atlantic coast. Holy matrimony between the monarch and his lady’s corpse to put a new heir upon the throne, all is well and politically secure and Maria de Padilla is queen of Spain if someone will rouse her and tell her. She is like Aphrodite when she sleeps, may I go and wake the bathing queen?
Sylvan Lebrun is a student living in Tokyo, Japan. Her work has been previously published in Shirley Magazine, Lammergeier, Construction, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, among others. She loves walks in the mountains and dead languages.
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