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We are once more the pair
who lived in barbed places,
in harsh nests in the rock.
This time is difficult. Wait for me.

—Pablo Neruda, “With Her”,
translation by Alastair Reid


I brought a tub of melons
to the Feast of Santiago, dimpled
flesh and honey ripe, dirt beneath
my nails, red carnation in my hair.
I looked through empty streets;
she said you weren’t there.
The rails have overturned, we
are not feasting, try the hills
and leave us to our sad affair.
We are once more the pair.

I climbed the way they showed
me at the school for disadvantaged,
but the melons grew too heavy
so I left them by the road
and carried on with signals
from the fire in the faces
of the women who have loved you
and the calloused hands of fishermen.
The cod is gone, so little now of traces
who lived in barbed places.

The seagulls nest in trees,
I’m told, the cormorants synonymous
in days gone by with greed,
they screech at me to leave
you be, he is not here, St. James
is not the man who’ll talk
with you at night of stars;
to him, you are the bars between
the space, disimulate, you stalk
in harsh nests in the rock.

I know my old name too.
It’s how we came to recognize
the me and you, but all of that
is gone. The view across Galicia
is clear; I’ve myths aplenty still
to use of Santiago’s mystery.
Those keys you hold may lead you
to some Heaven’s door, but what’s
in store we neither of us see.
This time is difficult. Wait for me.


My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, survivors, rescue workers, and all who are affected by the rail disaster at Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Image of street at Santiago de Compostela
from Wikimedia Commons