To San Domingo de la Calzada

by Garry Robert McDougall

Najera left, St Domingo de la Calzada imagined,
fifteen minutes through vineyard and heath, mountains to the south,
my walkers traversing Azofra and Ciranuela,
undulating hours together, pilgrims caravans passing,
waving to my silent speedometer.

At curving hilltop for picnic place, car butt aside,
the Rioja on three horizons,
I am unfree in all directions, standing
in midday’s sec aire, windless and fair
for St Domingo on-the-plain,
sandy, urban township,
agri-framed, impasto mountains verde.

Imagine St Domingo in its Sunday best,
white-welcome to unmatched husbandry, plain view,
distant mountains pressed to parallel lines,
this traveller’s heart not of this place, nor touched to the core.
Synapses snap.
In the great emptiness of Earth and sky,

Companions, where are you?
Deliver me; voice to me,
touch and laugh over calamari, in-the-rib humour and casual asides.
Words jam in my throat until dusk,
thoughts poised,
pitch black, stagnant and bewitched;
vacant before Rioja vineyard,
being all south, and gone west.

Between earth and sky, over the fence sighting,
ripe, dark grapes conjure desire,
drawing me to help-myself.

Garry Robert McDougall's picture

A Sydney poet and novelist, Garry gives Spanish Pilgrimage presentations, writes novels and occasional opinion pieces, teaches poetry and exhibits paintings and photographs. He is a member of the DiVerse poetry group and the South Coast Writers Centre executive. In 2013 To San Domingo de la Calzada won Second Prize, Glen Phillips Poetry Prize. In 2012, Beating Time won Highly Commended in the Peter Cowan National Short Story Prize. In 2015, he won First Prize in the Peter Cowan Short Story Prize. His early walks guidebooks, Great North Walk and New South Walks Heritage Walks, were both published with Kangaroo Press. His two novels, Belonging and Trust, are Australian stories based on historical events around 1900 and 1988 respectively. His third novel, Knowing Simone, is set in Victor Hugo's France. He won artist/author in residence with Arteles in Finland, combined with long distance walking journeys in Spain and Portugal, soon to be published as Damn! His novel's common thread is respect for people caught in hostile historical circumstances, dramatising their negotiation of powerful social and historical forces. His poetry might rhyme, be experimental, lyrical, visual or sparse, but time, word, place and the human spirit are paramount.

Last updated July 07, 2016