The Way                                                                                                               —Richard Jones


We didn't go to London after all. She was German and we drove her old Citroen from her father's home in Hanover south to the Alsace where we stayed for a week in her uncle's cottage. Then we followed the winding Costa Brava to Barcelona and crossed the plain to Madrid. If we'd parked the car and walked the Camino north, we might have done the pilgrimage properly, but instead we drove to Toledo, then on through forests to Lisbon and the sea where we camped on Portugal's lonely beaches. In Galicia we stopped at Santiago de Compostela—as if "the field of stars" had been our destination all along. We walked the town's cobblestone streets and through colonnades crowded with university students. In the great cathedral we wet our fingertips in the seashell filled with holy water while the blue smoke of incense lifted up like fragrant prayers. Neither of us knew how to kneel, but our hearts burst when we touched the statue of Saint James and wished for all the things we didn't know. All I knew was that it was Spain and I was alive and she beautiful, kind, and generous. It is a sweet memory and cherished, though I have not seen her for more than twenty years and don't know where she is or what wonderful things have happened to her. We drove on to San Sebastian. We pitched our tent on the edge of a vineyard. At an old castle, at a table beneath the stars, we drank wine. By candlelight we spoke in whispers about all the things we would do with the lives we'd been given.

 

The Silver Cord


Apparently I was not keen to be born. Three weeks late, I refused to come into the world; my mother could only lie in her hospital bed and wait. "Meaningless! Meaningless!" cries the teacher of Ecclesiastes, and perhaps in my mother's womb I somehow knew and pondered those words about life and existence. That year in England my father had flown to Spain, Germany, Italy, and Egypt. He flew to other countries, also—he had a special passport from the Embassy that allowed him to fly to Portugal, where he enjoyed secret adventures he never shared, wild stories lost forever, now that he's gone to his grave. The teacher of Ecclesiastes says the former generations will not be remembered by those to come. The teacher says to remember the Creator each day of this life before the silver cord is severed and the golden bowl is broken. That long-ago August, as from my mother's womb I declined the world's golden invitation, my father's father lay dying in Virginia. My father did not know whether to stay in London and celebrate my birth or fly to America and mourn. After I was born, my father went home—too late. It was the same for me. The day the call came that my dad was near death, I crossed the country to his home by the ocean, yet my father was already dead in his coffin. It must have hurt my father greatly not to fly across the vast blue and gray nothingness of the Atlantic; it must have hurt not to sit by his father and say good-bye, not to kiss the dying hand.


 photo: Sarah Jones

photo: Sarah Jones

Richard Jones is the author of seven books of poems from Copper Canyon Press, including Apropos of Nothing and The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning. His newest collection is King of Hearts (Adastra Press). Editor of the literary journal Poetry East and its many anthologies, including ParisOrigins, and Bliss, he also edits the free worldwide poetry app, "The Poet's Almanac."

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