John Delaney

John Delaney

My publications include Waypoints (2017), a collection of place poems, Twenty Questions (2019), a chapbook, Delicate Arch (2022), poems and photographs of national parks and monuments, and Galápagos (2023), a collaborative chapbook of my son Andrew’s photographs and my poems. Nile, a chapbook of poems and photographs about Egypt, appeared in May 2024. I live in Port Townsend, WA.

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Camino Days

Day 2: Villar de Mazarife → Santibáñez de Valdeiglesia (20 km)


Puente de Órbigo (13th century)

Crossing the Bridge

After a long, level walk this morning,
past fields of ripened corn and sunflowers,
passing/being passed by pilgrims we knew,
we came to the long bridge of Órbigo,
where noble knight Don Suero de Quiñones,
defending the honor of his broken heart,
jousted many knights and broke their lances

in 1464. Twenty arches
of medieval stone beneath our feet,
we ambled over into the village
and found a place to eat. A glass of wine
to raise in toast to the travail for love:
‘Romantic jousts, your time advances;
throw down your gauntlets and take your chances.’

Day 7: Ponferrada → Pieros (20 km)



Some came from further distances,
but this is their end-of-day
proving that a group
of random pilgrims
can break bread together
and share a pot of soup.

‘How was your journey?’
‘Where is your home?’
“Are you traveling alone?’
Conversation ranges
from ecstatic exchanges
to prayers and pronouncements. ‘So,
how far do you hope to get tomorrow?’

A typical “pilgrim’s dinner” might include pumpkin soup, chicken with veggies, vino tinto (red wine), a bread basket, and a tarte de Santiago (almond cake)—for ten euros.

Day 8: Pieros → Ruitelán (25 km)


The Starting Line

I reached the starting line in Villafranca
just as the “go” gun went off: the bikers
in the front climbing up on their pedals,
forcing their feet down and the bike forward,
trying to find a racing rhythm fast.
I had no idea where they were going,
but to see such a frenzy at the start,
such grim determination on their faces!

I wondered how long desire would last
after the miles had sapped their energy
and the realization had set in
that they were falling behind frontrunners
and would never catch up. Did it matter,
as long as they could find their finish line?
That was my feeling every day and night.
We are always starting from somewhere, right?

Day 10: Hospital de la Condesa → Balsa (17.5 km)



A lovely walking day, sunny and cool,
mostly down. Everyone was passing us.
Stunning Galicia fields, mountaintops,
like islands, surrounded by valley fog.

We arrived in Balsa near 3 pm.
Our albergue was old and small, held ten.
There were marble sinks in the bathroom,
and shower walls were original stone.
Charming wooden toilet seats, eco-soap.
At the sumptuous communal dinner,
I sat between “gap” year college students.

Slowly, the day was generating bliss,
which I gathered swinging in a rope chair.
I’m sitting on the terrace writing this.

Day 13: Mercadoiro → Hospital de la Cruz (16.6 km)


Castro de Castromaior (4th century B.C.)

Iron Age Question

Began as an overcast, misty day.
We crossed agricultural areas,
walked up woodland paths. Reached Gonzar after noon.
A few hundred yards off the pilgrim way,
we later encountered the Iron Age
in the archaeological ruins of Castro,
a fortress of stone-walled rooms and passages.

Would you have made friends here, a family?
Proud of egalitarian chambers,
spartan and humble, but built everlasting?
More than a thousand years, pilgrims have trod
where others forged and fought and fantasized.
Was there a better way, somehow, somewhere?
Would you have found here, and prayed to, a benevolent god?

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Poetry & Images in this post: © John Delaney
Published with the permission of John Delaney