William Heath

Barrio de Santa Cruz

In Spain the rain falls mainly
in the mountains and the pain
is on display in the streets.
Like any Ohio boy, the first time
a gypsy holds out her hand
I shake it.  Watch your wallet,
I learn.  Never look a beggar
In the eye.  The mother gives 
her child a cardboard sign, 
soy una pobre niña, shows her 
how to expose one bare foot 
beneath a shawl full of holes,
slaps her to make her cry.  
The child is quick to sort
the tossed coins, gathering 
the larger ones out of sight
then resuming the lost look
her mother taught her
works best, but today she is
shivering in the cold, 
a more effective look
her skin will not forget
nor her freezing bones
when she is a woman grown,
teaching her poor daughter
how to beg in the street.

William Heath has published two poetry books, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy, with a third, Going Places, forthcoming in the spring; 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. His website is www.williamheathbooks.com