Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios, Castilla y León, Spain, Way of St. James
Sisters, after the day’s long walk, how fresh you were,
your white habits belted with a woven cord,
your hair covered in white wraps. So young you seemed,
to have taken vows of chastity. When I was a child,
my father brought me to meet
my cloistered great aunt, her skin the color of twilight
behind the screen where they kept her, or so it seemed,
like a prisoner. But you sang Eres tú and strummed
your guitars as if in love with each one of us.
When you sat us in a circle and asked us to share
why we are on the Way–I said I wanted to escape,
but didn’t say from what. One of the pilgrims, a man,
told me, Eres una gran mujer, You’re a good woman.
But it’s a sham, a game I play, this act of goodness.
When I was seventeen and my hair was black and long,
my boyfriend, too old for me, knocked me up–
such a crude expression, forgive me.
My mother discovered the abortion months later–
she had glanced at my bank withdrawals. I didn’t lie,
as my boyfriend said I should’ve, and tell her I’d bought new clothes.
God will never forgive you, my father swore.
The guidebook says in Carrión de los Condes, when el Cid’s
two married daughters were stripped of their robes
and jewels, tied to a tree and beaten, their father the count
galloped on his epic horse to free them, then married them off
to some other lord, still chattel, but honor restored.
These stories are old, but if I had told you mine in Carrión,
I suspect I’d have shocked you. Carrion, la carroña, decaying flesh.
Dear Sisters, I want to escape this invisible body,
call it a sheath of shame, to leave it on the hot, dry road for the vultures.