Sweet sunflower smell,
Heavy heads hanging,
Pulling their gazes from the sun.
I beat into the breeze on a battered BMX,
As creaky and bone-rattled as its rugged rider.
It hops me along on rutted roads, the rocky dirt tracks that plough through this Euclidean quarter of Castile.
Any minor blemish can be seen for miles in this slate-flat land: the ridge upon which sits Villalba, with its huddled-together houses and, of course, the church.
Today is San Roque.
Sunday morning missal will talk of plague and the blessing that is health.
My daughters are within, unbaptized but heads bowed and faces as full of sunshine as the flowers I pass.
Tonight there will be bonfires in honour of the saint,
And a pagan warding-off of unvanquishable maladies.
Snatches of song are carried to me from the church and I stop my pedalling in the vain hope of catching my girls’ fragrant chant.
A pagan on the road, grasping at understanding; unbelieving and over-thinking the symbols of bell and fire and song.