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This article is taken from PN Review 262, Volume 48 Number 2, November - December 2021.

from Book of Days Phoebe Power
The following is an extract from Book of Days, a long poem recounting a journey along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. This extract describes the ninth and tenth days of the walk, from the town of Los Arcos to Torres del Río, and on to Logroño.


We wait an hour in the plaza till it’s unlocked, then pilgrims pour in, extensive gold vision of riches, rrretablo.
Seated in the centre
the little (black) virgin with blue eyes
from C13th and modelled
from the island of France
where they have a lot of black virgins.

In 1947 they restored
her and removed
her black colour. Smooth black hair
and tight, smiling eyes,
her cheeks all powdered.
Meanwhile, painted faces scream
their letterbox mouths, cross-eyed
on the trompe-oeil organ

The retablo generally
cold, spiky: solidified
gold going to break off in bits

Every few metres,
stop to adjust the straps. Pick up.
    stop to drink. Go on.
    Sit down. Sven and Cecilia
coming through trees, don’t see me.
Unlace, toe joints
click and stretch soft pink, dry
and hardening. Wrap
again in new soft socks; resume.


Jin-young and Jin-young arrived earlier on; now
they’re cutting bread and tomato at a table set in the doorway.

I shower, bring my things and ...

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