Poems from Galicia and Portugal

After walking the Caminho Portugues to Santiago de Compestela, we walked in A Coruña, Coimbra, and Porto.

Tales of Three Cities

  1. A Coruña

Galicia has A Coruña

John Lennon still strums there.

Hero Hercules, Poseidon

Guard the old harbor where

Intruders ran up to the fair

Crowned city, deep cisterned,

Now framed in new white tower.


Surfers stoked forever,

Cut and hang to the end of the earth,

Aquarium, that is.


That strong Tower of Hercules

The Menhires de Paz,

Invite us to the human family.



  1. Coimbra

City of Coimbra smoky

From wild forest fires

Borders the Rio Mondego

With spuming, shooting gyres

Day and night. The Black-caped students

Force the newbies to wear

Soda cans, faculty dresses,

Carry turnips all day

As they beg from us passersby.

Strolling to class, they glide

On courts of King Dom Dinis.

Burning of their ribbons

Serenata Monumental

A Queima das Fitas

Soaked students in silence listen

to mandolins, singers

With crazed cheers of young blood grads.

Escaped from academic prison

They cherish their books whose careless

Destruction merited

Maximum punishment in kind,

Maximum wisdom lost.

Leather-bound books guarded by bats

Eating the wormy insects.


Chapel of St. Michael resounds

Spookily, with Latin

Hymns of refulgence to godly Kings

Shining in cloistered tombs.


Convento de Santa Clara

With Santa Isabel

Wife of King Dom Dinis, resting

Place for the patron saint

of Coimbra. At only age

Twelve she married ,suffered,

Under Dinis, austere, jealous

Mad when she gave golden

Coins to needy, sick, orphaned children.

Disguised in a basket,

Gold coins had turned to roses

When Dinis searched his Queen.

Dinis dead in 1325,

She gave her remaining

Wealth to the poor, and a poor Clare,

Lived, prayed, died in Convento

Santa Clara. A painting shows

Royal gold and roses.

To Santiago she journeyed

Pilgrim, walking, hidden.

Hospitals, schools, and albergues

Were the roses she gave.

A Peacemaker who stopped her son

and her husband’s warring.

Reinha Santa Isabel!


Quinta das Lagrimas, Garden

Of Tears, the mournful park

of Dona Inès de Castro.

Beautiful daughter, she

Descended from a Galician nobleman.

The eye of Dom Pedro

Spied her, married her, queened her.

Fearing Spain’s influence

From her Galician connection,

Pedro’s father, King Afonso,

Forbade the marriage. So in secret

Inès and Pedro wed.

Paranoid and mad, Afonso

Had her murdered right there

Near the Spring where they used to kiss.

A poem graven in stone

Records their love, and her death, now.


Portugal dos Pequenitos

Little houses, little

Monuments, little pavilions.

Evoking colonies

Crushed and enslaved by Portugal–

Brazil, Macau, Goa

East Timor and Mozambique

Azores and Madeira

Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde

Sao Tomé y Principe

With Equatorial Guinea.–

Challenge us with statues

Flaunt weapons, artifacts and dolls,

Tribal relics, plundered.


Funky street art everywhere

Tags on muraled bridges,

Passageways, walkways tunneling

Untouched and unpoliced.

Flora and fauna of the streets,

Brotherhoods of spray cans,

Botanicals near coursing,

Aqueduct– Coimbra

Sempre velha sempra nova!


  1. Porto

City of the Discoverer

Henry Navigator,

Porto ushers Rio Douro

From Jardim do Moro.

Walking Ponte de Dom Luis,

I flow with the crowds and tram.

Promontory of Colina da Sé

Accessed by steps, I float,

Smooth funicular lowering

Down to the riverside.

Cais da Ribeira, for me

World’s most beautiful street.


Torre de Clérigos, landmark

Outside our hotel with

Noisy buses and shrill students

Drinking out in the street

Every single night to five-thirty.

Cleaners out by six A. M..




Art and mathematics depend

On each other, turning

Parabolically around,

Cleaving the marble slab.


Portuguese Center for Photos

Housed in an old prison

Shows life among the prisoners

Color and black and white

Testimonies of their humanity,

Their bad sides all hidden.

TV replaces their reading

Of books, lying untouched.

Interior life diluted.

No Malcolm X, Nelson

Mandela here. “It is better

This way. Tranquillity.

Docile and Amenable all.

They’re useful idiots.”

Upstairs, overlooking Porto,

Obsolete cameras

Recorded the world as inner

Eye courting landscapes.



Aeons of rocks, sheltered pathways

Burst onto rocks and waves,

Beckoning to me and to you.

Freedom, the Atlantic.

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