No festive celebration marked the day that Juan was born
To humble circumstances, heir to universal scorn;
His childhood fraught with lessons taught by want and misery,
An urchin of the streets was all he could aspire to be.
Juan never knew his father, but his mother he adored,
Secure within her soothing arms, disheartened spirits soared;
His young world shook when angels took his madre to her rest,
Her parting words, "Remember, Niño, always give your best."
Though only nine, a deep resolve took anchor in his soul,
To heed his mother's final thought, regardless of the toll,
And deep inside, emerging pride sought outlet to redeem
His life from utter poverty, to gain widespread esteem.
For Spanish youth, toreros tread the envied route to fame,
So Juan chose the corrida as the way to make his name;
He promised, "By the God on high, before I reach eighteen,
I'll be the greatest matador that Spain has ever seen."
He crept at dusk to rancher's fields where fighting bulls are bred,
To practice skills with which his strong desire could be fed;
His sinews toned and prowess honed in those clandestine nights,
He toiled toward the cherished right to wear the "suit of lights".
Though bullfight opportunities are difficult to find,
Stouthearted, Juan persisted with a singleness of mind;
No daunting pain of trouble's reign could dim his hope's bright gleam,
But time was running out for the fulfillment of his dream.
The empresarios declined to put him on their bill,
But fortune intervened and found a place for him to fill:
A matador, who feared the score of doom, refused to face
A deadly breed of bulls; Juan volunteered to take his place.
In Spain, display of courage is the heart of honor's code,
But courage comes in many forms and Juan had not yet showed
A faculty for bravery to face Death's ghastly eye;
He wondered if his fledgling wings of fortitude could fly.
Though ill and weak from hunger, he strode out to greet his fate;
Stilleto'd head held high, the bull exploded from the gate;
With mimicked poise amidst the noise of thundering olés,
Juan swirled the cape to pass the horns beneath his anxious gaze;
His next, a smooth verónica, the classic bullfight pass,
Drew rhythm from retreating folds to slow the bull's huge mass;
A whirling serpentina stirred emotive fantasy,
As man and toro blended in a flowing entity.
The tossing muscle of the bull is weakened by the skill
Of picadors' long spikes, their work essential for the kill,
But Juan, unknowing, crudeness showing, waved the pics away
To please the crowd, and thus ordained the outcome of the day.
The banderilla placement is a graceful work of art,
For some aficionados it's the most aesthetic part:
As toro lunged, Juan deftly plunged the pointed darts in place,
Delighted shouts applauded his display of style and grace.
The time of Truth was now at hand, the tension at its height,
The final tercio led to the climax of the fight;
Montera doffed and held aloft, Juan vowed, "Madre, for thee,
I pledge the life of this brave bull, to thy sweet memory."
In mock disdainful posture he strode out across the sand
To cite a charge toward the scrap of flannel in his hand;
A crimson flood of toro's blood streamed down his dusky hide,
His savage instinct galvanized to gore before he died.
With tantalizing slowness the muleta coaxed him by,
The surge of lethal needle points passed inches from Juan's thigh,
A subtle twist of supple wrist withdrew the scarlet lure,
In torrents of emotion's tide that time could scarce endure.
A scald of terror seared Juan's throat and burned within his breast;
"I can't contain my fear", he thought, "I've failed the crucial test!"
With vision blurred, his ears now heard an echo from beyond,
"Remember, Niño, always give your best"--his solemn bond.
He profiled to the bull, then furled the cloth and made a leap
Across the wicked horns to drive the sword's curved blade down deep,
Well-thrust it looked, but toro hooked his dagger-laden head,
The fatal spikes ripped upward . . . within minutes, Juan was dead.
El toro, too, collapsed in death to lie at poor Juan's side,
Together they had bravely fought, together they had died;
Two lives undone, but only one mandated, one unplanned;
Two pools of blood merged into one and glistened on the sand.
In la fiesta brava's hallowed halls of bullfight lore
The name of Juan is not inscribed as greatest matador,
But one domain he did attain in glory of his quest:
He graced the field of valor with the giving of his best.