My poem El inquilino (the lodger) was a runner up in the MsLexia poetry competition this year and has just been published in the magazine. That should have made it easy to find something to write for the blog today, but although copies have already been delivered to subscribers, the terms of the publishing agreement mean that the poem can’t appear here – or anywhere else – until after the official publishing date of September 1st.
That said, the poem was inspired by the wildlife at the house en el pueblo when I lived in Spain, so here is a rather different account of “the lodger”, adapted from notes for the fictionalised memoir I eventually hope to write, which will be in the house-as-life-journey genre.
When we first bought the property, we were still living in Madrid and only going out to the village at weekends. It was a two-storey house, built into the terraced hillside and we started off living in the upper storey while we finished building the ground-floor/ basement.
There was a toad that would occasionally appear in the basement; it would be there when we arrived on a Friday night, a dull lump alongside the rubble, unnoticed at first, then quietly shifting, manouevering itself laboriously with its bandy forelegs, turning slowly, and finally lumbering away into a darker, damper corner. Much later, when we’d finished refurbishing and had the big open-plan kitchen and den downstairs, we’d occasionally see it in the storm drain by the door.
There was also a toad who’d lurk above ground, tucked into the angle by the basement door or half-hidden in the weeds along the edge of the path, or wait in the shadows on the verandah until one of us would step out barefooted for a final breath of air before bed.
For years we observed the two of them: one who lived in the drain and the other who lived in the ivy that smothered the wall between the garden and the olive grove next door. I imagined them as a couple, living out their lonely lives, faithful till the last, their romance thwarted by a black iron grid.
Then one night I found the upstairs toad – the one I pictured as the faithful lover, waiting at his mistress’s door – huddled in the corner, fat and warty, with jewel-bright eyes, alongside some garden tools I had leaned against the wall. I fetched my camera, but the flash disturbed him and he slowly turned and waddled, disgruntled but dignified, towards the iron grating. Suddenly he tipped, head down, between the bars.
I looked on in horror at his hind legs waving in the air. Surely the gap must be too narrow? What would I do if he got stuck? But no: there was a brief pause, and there he was – gone!