At Ease in Tarragona
by Margaret Koger
I’m barefoot, standing on wet sand as waves froth white at my ankles.
I tug my strapless a little higher as others exult au naturel in the sun.
I wait for the Med to lift me. The man I’ve come lately to love shed
his fear of naked flesh soon after our Idaho childhoods. He swims
as old Sol and his salty sister re-source us.
How did I child in Central Cove, Idaho and adult on the Platja Savinosa?
Whence the Sant Jordi Hotel? (Saint George ready slay Spanish dragons?)
I see myself at three or five or seven crossing a black asphalt border
to hear stories—Helen’s hurricanes, her romance with Danny the Basque
how the old country suffers, money so scarce, sons sent away.
Is this where my wanderlust began? Or were Robert Louis Stevenson’s rhymes
“At the Sea-Side,” and “Away all Boats” in a garden of verses already my future?
“The Land of Nod” and a “Pirate Story”? Yes! Derring-do, swashbuckling me
Kidnapped with David Balfour and Ransome washing up on Treasure Island
perchance to roam the Cévennes in France with a donkey carrying my bags.
My mind a puzzle map of distant shores, not just a country girl forever
harboring sea dreams, dreams held at bay by family anchors until finally
once, twice, and then again to Barcelona, to ramble along the Ramblas
canaries in cages, scented flower stalls, buskers’ weddings, Picasso prints,
beer, and men harmonizing in the Barri Gòtic.
So, the map. Why not try Tarragona? Where Roman ships harbored in Tarraco
Hispania Tarraconensis, one of the most important cities of the empire
where the amphitheater roared with lions as crowds of citizens howled for blood
Augustus meanwhile reclining in a lavish villa; a time-travel view of antiquity
so easily accessible by rail. Yes, why not?
Oh Tarragona! Why so comforting? Mornings at the Sant Jordi, old Domingo’s
forty years of service, shuffling now, baskets of sticky croissants and butter,
café con leche? Yes, and orange juice—before we watch rabbits and goats
scamper across the scrub hillside below. Tarragona, where Sol and his sister
sea renew us, for the sea is fecund, enlivening even when wind whips
the waves into twisted breakers and the surf swells, stealing sweetness
from the beach. Then we stroll the Rambla Nova, eye ships waiting
roadstead to enter the crowded harbor, step down into the amphitheater
photograph the monumental ombú tree, and rest beside the hippodrome,
imagining chariot races, dramas, circuses, and 30,000 roaring Romans.
By sunset we hunger for Sant Jordi’s calm, to gaze out to sea, hoping
to return next year, hoping to hear summer singing its universal song.
NOTE: Tarragona is a port city located in northeast Spain on the Costa Daurada by the Mediterranean Sea. Founded before the 5th century BC, it is the capital of the Province of Tarragona. The city has a population of 201,199 (2014). The city’s Roman ruins have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A number of beaches, some awarded a Blue Flag designation, line the Mediterranean coast near the city.
PHOTO: Roman Amphitheater, 2nd Century A.D., on the Mediterranean Sea, Tarragona, Spain. Photo by Marc Pascual.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Koger is a Lascaux Prize finalist and an experienced writing instructor from Boise, Idaho. Her poetry characterizes the problems facing our society and the need to make room for nature. Her poetry has been archived by the City of Boise and has appeared in numerous journals including Amsterdam Quarterly, Forbidden Peak Press, Collective Unrest, Chaffey College Review, Thimble, Inez, Headway, Burning House, Voice of Eve, Tiny Seeds Literary Journal, Ponder Savant, and The Limberlost Review.