Astringent Pines

Astringent pines by the Auditorio.

Mist drifting across the houses on the hill

like wood smoke. A smell of damp grass,

or the perennial berries

of suburban fir trees at the end of back gardens

in Dublin. My dead grandfather.

Auditorio_de_Galicia_-_Santiago_de_Compostela

When I wrote this poem in 1994, my grandfather was alive; the relevant adjective had to be added later, when the book was published 24 years later. The Auditorio de Galicia, where I saw one of the Three Tenors, José Carreras perform for the subsidised price of 1,000 pesetas (around five Euros), is on the way to the South Campus of Santiago's university. (Incidentally, I also saw Nina Simone in a large tent in the Alameda.) By the Auditorio, there's a small park with ducks and geese, where pleasant hours were spent. 1026The fowl tend to stray from the water, and wander among the students sitting on the banks, and have been even known to process along the pathways in single file. In 1993, and as late as my last visit to Compostela in 2007, this park and environs were a  pleasing area of the city. What was enjoyable was the humdrum, pleasant nondescriptness. In Spain, the traveller can at times suffer from beauty overload. I can imagine that it happens even more in Italy. I enjoyed these suburbs, where the city was beginning to trail off into countryside. It was good to spend some hours there resting one's eyes, before returning to the baroque old city.

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This poem is from my second book, Santiago Sketches, which is entirely set in the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. You can read more poems here, in Spanish and in English. You can buy the book on Amazon here, or if you’d rather buy local, order from your bookshop. More information is available on my website.

This post gives the background on the editing of Santiago Sketches, which was distilled from perhaps 100 little pocket notebooks, which were shaped from being carried around in my trouser pocket.