by Laura Foley
Walking the endless Meseta, we turn to see
yellow broom flowers, orange poppies going by—
the only way to know these pilgrims’ progress.
Each night, an ancient town new to us,
steps closer to our journey’s end—
we feel no mystic pull toward Santiago,
but we believe in the awe of those who do,
as Gregorian chants pipe through a darkened church,
and a friend we meet weeps freely at a café table.
We leave Castrojeriz in the graying dark,
before dawn, before cafés open, our shoes
tapping a slow rhythm on quiet streets,
and though at this moment they’re empty of all but us,
we know the road, the path we’ve chosen,
takes us somewhere many have gone before.
We feel them all in the hard-packed trail,
in our aching feet,
in our will to keep going, a mysticism we can believe.
AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This photo was taken near Castrojeriz, Spain. We had walked about 200 miles and still had another 300 miles to go. It was springtime, it rained often, and the wildflowers, especially the poppies, were magnificent. (Photo by Clara Gimenez)
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My wife and I walked five hundred miles, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago Spain, on El Camino, an ancient pilgrim’s path.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Foley is the author of seven poetry collections. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review, was among their top poetry books of 2019, and won an Eric Hoffer Award. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Salmon Press. Her poems have won numerous awards, and national recognition—read frequently by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac; appearing in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Gimenez, among the hills of Vermont. Visit her at laurafoley.net.