Plaça Reial

for Paul Blackburn (1926-1971)

The palm trees are still there, Paul,
people of all ages pack the stone benches
by the fountain and in the evenings stroll
across the square under the spiky, vaguely
threatening wrought-iron streetlamps
designed by a young Gaudí. Couples
still carry babies in their arms
and long-legged women of the kind
you kept your eye on are often seen,
nowadays from all parts of the world.

Plaça Reial is an enclosed surprise at
the heart of the old city, an arcaded square
accessed by alleys adjacent to the Ramblas,
its high-shuttered apartments on all sides
have a Parisian flavor. Like Washington Square
in the seventies, it was once the den of drug dealers,
prostitutes, pickpockets, and purse snatchers.
A seedy ambiance adds spice to its charm,
but now the word is Barcelona Posa’t Guapa
and the facades are freshly restored.

It’s no secret from the tourist hordes,
tables from many cafes fill the arcades
and spread into the square. Your favorite bar,
the Glorieta, is long gone, Paul, along with
the organized waddle of the waiter you evoked
in “The Touch” who remembered you after
many years and tapped your shoulder.
When he died you realized you never
knew his name and that we don’t need
to know people’s names to love them.

About the Author
William Heath has published two poetry books, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; a chapbook, Night Moves in Ohio; three novels, The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake’s Path; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone.