Camino de Santiago Poem

by Syl Nilsen

El Camino de Santiago

We trained for months to walk the trail
Got all the guide books in the mail
We knew that we would never fail
el Camino de Santiago.

We caught the bus on our first day
to Roncesvalles, and I must say that
the twisting roads blew me away
el Camino de Santiago

Men and women in one dorm
In every single shape and form
Undressing in situ is the norm
El Camino de Santiago.

Thirty-five years I have been wed
And no other man has shared my bed
But the man on top made my face turn red
El Camino de Santiago.

When the lights went out I prayed for morning
But I couldn’t sleep because of the snoring
And the bare-arsed man? I tried to ignore him
el Camino de Santiago.

When we reached Larasoana the beds were full
“You can sleep on the floor,” he said, “if you will”.
The man in middle farted all night.
El Camino de Santiago.

By the third day we’d learned a thing or two.
If you wanted the laundry, shower or loo
You had to hurry and get into the queue
El Camino de Santiago

Some shower cubicles didn’t have any doors and
no hooks to hang clothes so they went on the floor
the water was freezing, my body felt raw.
El Camino de Santiago

Its day number four, at last some sunshine
The Irache fuente offers water or wine
I think I’ll like the Camino just fine!
El Camino de Santiago

We’re now in wine country – in La Rioja
A ninety year-old woman has figs and love on offer.
Saw Santiago Matamoros in the church of St James
El Camino de Santiago

Long shadows at daybreak, white trails in the sky,
Red poppies, green fields, and stork nests on high
And sunsets so beautiful they make you cry
El Camino de Santiago

Yellow arrows to follow day after day
Concrete stele with shells showing the way
Vineyards, cherries, fields full of hay
El Camino de Santiago.

We met Germans, Italians, Carlos from Brazil
(the lady from Aus was awfully shrill)
Yankees, the French, a priest from Seville
El Camino de Santiago

Queso and pan and bocadillos too
This is the regular pilgrim’s food
A menu Peregrino is waiting for you
On el Camino de Santiago.

At days end I’m tired and just want to sleep
But first I have to see to my feet
Blisters and plasters, a rub with Deep-Heat
El Camino de Santiago.

I have hair like straw and a pilgrim tan
Brown face, brown legs, brown arms and hands
We all look the same, each woman and man
El Camino de Santiago

I am sick of mud.  I am tired of rocks.
I’m fed up with Compeed stuck to my socks.
Churches all look the same, Romanesque or Baroque
El Camino de Santiago

In Burgos the albergues in cabins – quite rough
But worse are the trees that shed thick, white fluff
I sneeze through the night – my sinuses stuffed
El Camino de Santiago

It is four in the morning; what is that racket?
A pilgrim is rustling plastic packets
If I knew who it was I would give him a wack!
El Camino de Santiago.

At Hospital de Orbigo they abandoned siesta
To celebrate an annual Medieval Fiesta
Then after Astorga the Marageteria
El camino de Santiago

Four days of flat walking on the meseta
with horizons that go on forever and ever
It’s raining and the path is getting wetter
El Camino de Santiago

It rained in the night and the path was slush
The pilgrims’ language made me blush!
One slipped and fell and said “Oh Fuck”
El Camino de Santiago.

At Manjarin the views are vast
And from Tomas the Templar a Gregorian chant
Then Cruz de Ferro, a famous landmark
El Camino de Santiago

Logrono, Najera, San Juan de Ortega,
San Anton, Fromista and Mansilla Mayor
Orbigo, Astorga, Villafranca del Bierzo
El Camino de Santiago

My mind switches off and I’m walking quite fast
I am part of the landscape, of present and past
Have I been here before?  In a previous life?
El camino de Santiago

We meet different pilgrims everyday
My memories of those met before fade away
Are they ahead or behind?  Who can say?
El Camino de Santiago

We entered Galicia at O’Cebreiro
The mist was so thick that it hid all the arrows
The first thing we saw was a Celtic Palloza
El Camino de Santiago

Past barnyards and farm yards ankle deep in cow-shit
Small hamlets, quaint houses and churches quite rustic
Corriedors through forests of oak and Eucalyptus
El Camino de Santiago

Got a sello at the barracks-like complex of Mont de Gozo
Everyone agreed that it was a real eyesore.
Then highways and traffic, the forests no more
El Camino de Santiago

No bagpipes to meet us, no cheering, no medal
We looked up in awe at St James’ Cathedral
We’d made it! We’d done it! We all felt the thrill
El Camino de Santiago.

Climbed stairs to hug the saint above the altar
Touched the Tree of Jesse carved by Mateo the master
Entered the crypt to look at Saint James’ casket
El Camino de Santiago

A Santiago cross, wooden Tau and a lacy Mantilla
Souvenirs of the journey – Ultreya e sus eia
But memories are my most valuable mementos
Of El Camino de Santiago.

The lessons I learned are with me still.
Divest yourself of personal baggage, travel light,
Be kind, and not critical. We all pilgrims on our
journey to heaven – El Camino de Santiago.

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