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Amber Paulen


Fall’s harbinger has tipped the wind cool. Inside, I shudder. Down below, the sun bestows its thick graces as those who work shuffle to it. For years I have arranged my life around writing The Body’s Long Madness at an early to all-day hour. Now I’m faced with the question, what to do without it?

This is only a pause during which I have forbidden myself any tinkering with the text, therefore I am forbidden to look at it. Through the pause invariably comes the questions: What to do next? I am ripe with energy for more projects, more books, but I also want this space empty so I retreat to read in the park.

Yesterday I already tied up a practicality I’ve ignored for years: in Italy I’m now “legal”! Which brings the inevitable contemplation of how humans can be “illegal” anyway, as if it’s countries and governments which binds us and defines us. But anyway, onward on the train to Bracciano, where the lake bespoke in other-blueness of heights and depths.

The toasted undulations of the land gives way to those bellows which seem to lift the unspoken into the open, let the wind have its way, the lake had waves. Sitting on the coarse shore I ate a yellow peach and tossed its pit into the refuse stirred up from the bottoms. The castel’s austere gaze overlooketh. I would die if it weren’t for swift great white clouds speeding by.

Instead I lay back and imbibe what is meant to be imbibed. O! there is such glory in the sun’s caresses, in the coarse sand, in the cold loud rip of the waves. Behind me a teenage boy strokes a teenage girl’s bared smooth flesh; they rolled over and over each other, barely obscured by the shadow. Young Italians are often publicly amorous.

The dusty path winds up up up, through silver olive groves, along blackberry brambles, permeated by fig-smell. How often has this path taken my thoughts and spread them; this dusty, steep path is part of the book and here I am again. In the piazza, the cats are skin and bones since we left them and they always remember me. They overwhelm my pity meowing and purring. I feed them my uneaten skin of porchetta.

Here I am again, and it’s morning. Down below the city streets blossom in the freshness of bodies recently woken, washed and painted. It’s strange, the part of me that went down into the depths to dig the book out is now rising back up again. I have often wondered if the ghosts I roused to write it would then lie still once I finished or, will more wind always come in its season, stirring up the stuff from the bottoms?


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