Abuela (grandmother) and I continue our unpacking here at a-n and it’s time to write again at Barcelona in a Bag!
The parallel blog over at The Museum for Object Research has had Abuela and I pretty busy up until now, ‘but we have to tell them about the handbag’ Abuela reminds me, blinking in the afternoon sun. You see it’s hot in Barcelona right now. ‘Our a-n friends don’t know about the bag’ she insists, pushing back her wavy grey bob and wiping her brow. ‘The thing won’t write itself!’
Okay I smile, and watch as she makes her way towards the cooler part of the flat. Hmm…what’s it to be, I wonder. ‘Lemonade!’ she calls back seeming to read my thoughts, and not for the first time I muse. ‘Post the poem!’ she calls again as she disappears through the kitchen door, snatching her apron from the hook. Ah yes, time for the poem, which kicked the whole project off, a poem which wrote itself in the giddy days after inheriting Abuela’s handbag. The days when Abuela appeared to me again after nearly forty years of silence.
I read the poem again now, nearly 18 months into my project and still marvel at the power of the object to bridge such a gap, to undo the irrevocable and conjure the time, the person and the place I thought was lost to me forever.
Barcelona in a Bag
Sitting on mother’s shelf
Housing the euros and the francs
And the cancelled passports
It sat emitting messages,
“My time was then but it is also now
Come, claim your histories, your map!”
Too heavy then for grandma’s arm,
Bought with a vigour, by your hands now frail
Unknowing how w/eighty-six would be.
A real handbag! You thought.
But it Smart/ed in her hand,
And finally the bag came to me.
Now, abuzz with interference, a large radio-player,
A boom box with a heartbeat.
The handling so right,
Nestling under my arm.
My smoothed-haired dachshund of a bag.
The longed-for remembering’s yap
That summons thirteen years of Summer.
Now is the time to draw on her.
What innards! And her pale lining unfurls
A recipe for cinnamon sand.
It runs through your fingers,
The sweet smell lingers
It’s time for cinnamon sand!
It’s flan of a bag, my crema catalana
To your creme brulee.
On a maritime stroll her buckle winks and flashes
I am the baton, I am the beat.
The fuzz of time is nothing to me.