The Veil

Wearing a black dress she

bobs in and out of rolling waves

and swells. Daily sea bath.

Sea foam sprays and hugs

her frock. Still fully dressed,

she rinses off at the outdoor

shower. Fresh water cascades,

rivulets spiral down to bare


Now dry and on her way down

Avenida Tacna she stops at the

plaza. Her black shoes, laced up

neatly, show signs of wear and

tear. A street canillita deftly

buffs her shoes, almost new

using rags and bits of


Most women in town wear

mantillas, go to misa often.

Her veil is solid black. No lace

frames her ivory face. She

is well known, but never

seen at church. Doña Maria is

the despenadora, the one who

takes care of the suffering.

La que quita penas.

We all run to the window,

peering above the cornice

and spot her porcelain profile

as she stops in front of the

ornate iron gate of our casona.

Our doorman lets her in. The

entire family is waiting in the

sala de estar. My uncle, dressed

impeccably in a black suit, stands

stiffly. His starched white collar

frames his long stern face.

He hands her a tiny wrapped

bundle, she quickly hides it

within her bosom, discreetly

looking away. He gestures towards

the bedroom.

Doña Maria’s heels click softly

over the ornate azulejo tiles.

She slowly backs her way into

the bedroom using both hands,

carefully drawing the french

doors closed.

We wait and wait.

The adults go in, I catch a

glimpse of my grandfather

laying there. No more moans

and heavy gusts of breath.

Bedding is neatly tucked, ivory

sheets tightly folded under his arms.

A giant gift wrap. Long bony

fingers splay out like branches

of the algarrobo tree. His face

is drawn, eyes now closed.

Bundles of palo santo burn

in a bowl next to his bedside

table. The aroma floats out,

thick white plumes of smoke slowly

make their way up, towards the

tall colonial ceilings.

Veronica Scharf Garcia was born in Concepcion, Chile and lived in several countries of South America, as well as Africa and the Middle East. She continues her itinerant life now in Europe. Her last home base was California, three years ago. Scharf Garcia has read her poetry at the Miami Book Fair, the Rosemary Duffy Larson Gallery in Florida, the OHI Center in San Diego, and at The Table in Hollywood. Her poems and artwork are published in various books and literary journals. She can be found at and

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