2016 Favorite Poem: Finisterre


by David Whyte

in Pilgrim 


The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,

into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you

as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way

to your future now but the way your shadow could take,

walking before you across water, going where shadows go,

no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass

except to call an end to the way you had come,

to take out each frayed letter you had brought

and light their illumined corners; and to read

them as they drifted on the late western light;

to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;

to promise what you needed to promise all along,

and to abandon the shoes that brought you here

right at the water's edge, not because you had given up

but because now, you would find a different way to tread,

and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,

no matter how, over the waves. 



Monique and I arrived in Finisterre, Spain after three months living off our bikes. We reached the end of the continent, the end of the pilgrimage, and in a way the end of our pre-parenthood life. Now we would have to go home. To stop the ambling and return to reality, with whatever we had discovered, as whoever we had become. The first thing we did was precisely to take off our shoes and go for a swim. 

I found Whyte's collection of poems on pilgrimage this year. They've helped me find new words for our experience last summer, new perfectly apt metaphors for what we felt and what we had gone there for in the first place. I wish I had found them last summer to use as poetic guides along the way. Perhaps I should have taken the time to write my own Camino poems, my own Finisterre. Instead I just soaked in the memory of a super moon transcending cartoonishly over the hillside horizon, an achingly beautiful sunset over the Atlantic set to Celtic melodies, a final paella dinner and sitting on the beach with my sweet, pregnant wife. As I do my year-end recollection on all the poems I read this year, I first remember Whyte's Finisterre because I remember our own Finisterre. So this poem may not be the best I read in 2016, but it's my favorite. It's the one I'm most thankful for.