Manuela Palacios

Manuela Palacios lectures on anglophone literature at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain). She has edited, translated and written about Irish, Galician and Arabic poetry. Among the recent anthologies she has edited are Migrant Shores: Irish, Moroccan & Galician Poetry (Salmon Poetry 2017) and Ανθολογία Νέων Γαλικιανών Ποιητών – Antoloxía De Poesía Galega Nova (Vakxikon 2019). Manuela’s research on women’s studies, ecopoetry and the human-animal trope has set her on the stimulating path to creative writing.

Vanitas

They were not so many who returned as rich indianos
boasting opulent Gatsby houses on the Galician north. 
Others were deceived into indentured work and never  
saw the gorse bloom or heard the wistful alalá again. 
 
Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier) or red palm weevil 
 
Modernist mansions of colourful glamour and wishful dreams, 
haughty belvederes that today look on deserted shipyards. 
Prosperous sugar and coffee plantations, avid of labourers: “one 
gallego does the work of two black men for the price of one slave.” 
 
A single female weevil can lay four hundred eggs in four months 
 
Alpine chateaux exhibit their otherwhereness on the benign seashore 
fanciful hybrids of granite and brick, verandas and glass galleries, 
while the philanthropist offers the indentured workers “a comfortable 
voyage, paid fare, regulated hours of work and rest, a straw hat…” 
 
Weevils steadily tunnel their way down the trunk of the palm tree  
 
Exotic gardens with the evergreen araucaria heterophylla  
French parterres, English romantic gardens, iconic palm trees 
arbor victoriae flanking the mansions. Men and women sold and sent 
to the haciendas: chains, punishments, man-hunting expeditions. 
 
The drooping crowns of the once majestic palm trees finally collapse  
 
The power and the glory of a beetle’s resolve. 
 
* indianos is the Spanish word for rich emigrants returned from America. 
* alalá is a folk song from northern Spain. 
* gallego is a person from Galicia, in north-western Spain. 

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