The best dancers are not
the slender young women
with lipstick and scarlet ruffles,
nor the young men who fancy themselves
latent toreadors stamping faster and harder
than rain on a cave roof.
The best dancers are
the leather-faced old women,
black-shawled, with castanets and fans,
strong as bulls, barrel-chested,
big-breasted, with heavy legs, fleshy
arms, and kohl-penciled eyes
dark as dying planets.
Their grandchildren have picked our pockets
on the buses near the Alhambra,
and now we pay to see them dance
in the caves of Granada. They lift their skirts
behind them to show clicking heels,
calves marbled with ropey veins.
The tourists are herded after the show
into a night of cobbled streets
and white-washed hotels, leaving the gypsies
with hands burning from synchronized clapping,
their ancient guitars silent. They drive home
to paint-peeled caravans in the field
beyond the mountain. Before sleep,
the grandmother sifts her hennaed hair
from tortoise-shell combs, spreads it out
on the pillowed moon. But first,
she counts the coins she earned tonight.
Her feet have turned to rock.
She never dreams.