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  • On the Mercadillo / Pocket full of Centimos

    2 poems.

    Flea market in Madrid.
    Photo by Duncan Rawlinson

    2 poems.

    A mercadillo is an open-air market that takes place in every town, city, or neighborhood in the entirety of Spain and most of Europe. Its contents depend on season, demand, and are usually considered to be cheap or secondhand goods sold for immediate consumption and eventual disposal.

    On the mercadillo

    at the corner
    the market bustles
    as I make my way by
    I can’t help have a look

    box of treasures, rusty hooks,
    copper rings, old paintings,
    imitation Persian rugs
    fidget spinners, petrified bugs

    up for grabs
    bueno, bonito, barato

    I see you circling the stall and muse:

    can anything truly be all three?
    or are these merely things
    we buy to fill up space and time?

    what things have I acquired
    in my struggle to stay inspired?

    mismatched earrings
    unopened bills
    a beer stein from New Braunfels

    aren’t we all
    collecting useless,
    toothless, old things
    nobody needs?

    what about the good stuff?
    the things we actually use?
    it all gets left at your day job
    or stuck beneath your shoes

    only a fraction is kept
    for ourselves now inept

    we act as if we can buy this emptiness away

    I look up to see you before me
    holding my gaze with knowing eyes
    I want to say,

    maybe you can help me,
    maybe we can help each other

    your hand now rests upon the treasure box

    you don’t need those things, I whisper

    but you’re not looking at me anymore


    The year 2008 marked the great recession that is still known today as “La crisis” in Spain. Although the country has recovered somewhat in recent years, many are still left without jobs, homes, and basic services needed to survive. It is not uncommon to see people digging through the trash, scavenging for food and goods to sell. It is not uncommon to hear about people dying in house fires during winter months, because they couldn’t afford electricity and had to find other means to keep their families warm at night. It is not uncommon to feel that for a first world country, there are far too many people here who have nothing.

    Pocket full of centimos

    Hope hangs,
    a pitiful rag,
    forgotten on its drying rack
    crusted with time
    and pollution.

    The city’s cramped alleyways,
    course with endless crowds.
    Nameless faces,
    a thick cloud,
    of fury and sound.

    On the corner of Carrer Trench,
    a man with a leathery face
    sits atop a milk crate,
    claws of smoke
    form ‘round his fingertips
    then drift into the sunset.

    A makeshift clown
    juggles at a stoplight.
    Two women sell garlic
    at a special price,
    solo para ti.
    Teens drink calimocho in the park.
    Another dog chronicles its existence
    on the steaming sidewalk.

    I wander the city’s entrails
    at late hours of the night:
    mapping its gutters and empty lots,
    making note of where sin techos
    beg for the big bucks,
    and dumpster divers
    pluck their best finds.

    Forever growing,
    forever in decay.
    Streets that won’t tell you where they’re going,
    dreams that won’t stay.

    The clock keeps rolling
    as we all fade away.

    Published on

    Ashuni Pérez

    Ashuni Pérez was born in Arizona's red rock country, grew up on the Texas-Mexico border, and now resides on Spain's east coast. She is a co-founder and co-editor at The Skinned Knee Collective, an online literary art magazine. Her work has appeared in Peach Fuzz Magazine, Girls Get Busy, and Queen Mob's Tea House among others. Pérez's current project is a book of short stories.

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