It Takes Only One Dark Day

It Takes Only One Dark Day

It takes only one dark day
Death is one breath or heartbeat away 
35 bodies in an old shallow grave
Equidistant from the houses of
Wordsworth and Dante
Tied to a lamppost a plastic bouquet 
Heads bowed, unmoved, implacable they wait
For nightfall to bathe them in darkness, they pray
Like hands palmed at midnight in whispers they say
Remember, remember, remember 
It takes only one dark day. 
Yesterday was the darkest day. Hence the title of this post.
It started well enough. I was on the move a little after 5.30am. Soon the sun was rising and I warmly remembered the night before when, after dinner and song, 32 people slipped silently to their beds.
Gunfire.
No kidding. Gunfire and barbed wire. By the time I’d drawn my phone and aimed it in the direction of the volleys, it had slowed but you can still here it here. Only a hundred yards earlier I had seen a sign saying, Military Zone.
I met some fellow travellers a little later and we stopped to discuss a memorial we had passed in the forest.
35 dead bodies, all pilgrims, discovered murdered and buried out here on the unbeaten track.
These poor souls were unearthed only 5 years ago but investigators placed the time of their killing around 1935. Between the two wars
.
It was a long and lonely walk for the next few hours.
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Late afternoon 3 of us found ourselves walking alongside a motorway. Anyone who has walked this path will tell you how much you grow to hate tarmac. It’s usually the first sign of modern life: industry without care, speed without destination, clamour with no respite.
That’s how it was for almost 2 hours. Industrial wasteland, speeding juggernauts, {some racing by only inches away, a grim reminder of the one that dared to take my life from me all those years ago, leaving me hurt so bad nobody thought I would walk again.} Here I am.
After 2 weeks of being spoiled by so much beauty: swaying meadows of corn, this rise and fall of a tapestry of vineyards, woodlands, wheat fields and waterways, it was a stark reminder of what I had not missed.
As so often is the case, it was food for thought for song.
Again as so often happens in life, things turned again. After limping, in some considerable pain, through a very downtown set of graffitied streets, crumpled old bars, tattoo parlours and pawn shops, I finally arrived in the old city of Burgos.
Here pilgrims from as long ago as the 11th century, entered through one arch only to exit later through another. As will I later.
Time for a trip down, the equally perilous, memory lane. And, while there, a name check.
By the time I reached the peregrinos albergue, at the heart of the old town, I was hobbling.
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After booking bed number 354, I put my boots politely on the rack next to some of which were almost as familiar to me as the folks who wore them. Twenty minutes later I had laid out my sleeping bag, washed and plastered by torn feet and was welcoming friends from along the way. All expressing similar sighs and sorrows regarding the roads before the arch.
I bid adios and went in search of food. I had literally taken no more than a few steps before I was greeted by the beautiful cathedral that is almost white from centuries of sun.
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I ate an early supper in its great shadow before sliding into my bunk and being borne away to my dreams of a better tomorrow.
Billy Franks.
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Jul 5 2016 Billy Category: The Kid's Camino

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