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A companion piece to the previous post.  Again, a re-blog from two years ago, but topical.

While we are on a theme of saints and souls, here is a poem about a pilgrim embarking for Compostela by taking communion at Talmont in Charente Maritime, prior to sailing down the Gironde:

Photo of Talmont in Charente-Maritime


I carried our sins all the way, coquette,

my calloused heels crushing cackling demons

and saw the face of Christ radiating

from each basin-bearing hospitaller.

I beat back hell-hounds in every hameau,

with my bog oak staff, my waisted gourd poured

down a parchment throat, as parched as the paths

I’d traversed to totter on that jetty.

Discarded oyster shells scarified soles,

as I scrambled onto the final ship

and I tried to erase your siren face

which haunted me from corbels, chevets

and polychromatic stone caskets,

from Aulnay, Saintes- and even Talmont.

Over the glittering estuary,

the Damascene sun glared epiphany.

Host fragments on my tongue, salt tang on teeth,

I’d hoped that the next kiss of a chalice

would transport me home, with my talisman:

a stringed scallop, showing where I had been.

Then I scattered blood-red hollyhock seeds,

like blisters, into the wake, trusting that

each would burst into a pillar of fire,

to illuminate my return voyage

I would walk over waves, though I was lame.

I’d wrestle with archangels, tear my nails

on all those petrified palmers’ handprints,

into which I’d  press my desperation.

From Santiago I would come, burning,

like a bush that could never be consumed:

shriven, forgiven, ready for Heaven.

Now you too must go beyond the Gironde.