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Amber Paulen

An Invokation of Former Frustration

I am in Seville. Some say Seville is beautiful, that the sun, which constantly shines here is delightful, that the city itself is seething and that the Spanish are rich and succulent with their Mediterranean airs. Seville has its history, its monuments, its art just like any ancient European city. It has its long and suspended afternoons with echoing sidewalks, streets empty and deserted. It has its food, fish fried deep in oil, heads, skins, bones and all, accompanied by mounds of beans and finished with honeyed sweets. The Spanish guitar provokes voluptuous feet stomping women, hand clapping and deep throttled singing until that vein on the neck is sure to burst. Cries of, ‘Ole!’ as the bull charges for red, another stake thrown in aggravation. This the Seville depicted on postcards and traveling brochures. This the Seville of the Spanish themselves, those who live here, it is their home, they are proud. Their grandfathers’, grandfathers’, grandfather lived here. The city is theirs.

As for me? I gave something valuable and all I got was this white washed city in its place. I denied this city right from the start and in turn it has left me dangling on the outskirts like an unwanted child, helpless and wailing. It has taught me how to be in hate, in silence and in loneliness. I have made my home within this desert, I am eating sand.

My case remains unclear to me for I only have myself to blame. Any irritation I have scratched until drawing blood, any agony and rage I have squeezed until dry. I have made myself weak as the reason in itself. To beat on these walls does no good. I am the only one listening and I find myself pounding harder. I have convinced myself that the solution to this dark, expansive alone is to leave. I am counting down the days and the days move on without me. But if this alone manages to affix itself to me, clutching my coattails as I make my escape then the lie will grow and with it the meaninglessness embedded in it.

Dramatics. I’m loaded. Embellishments whose only function is to make clear the contrasts. I don’t try hard enough to wipe them out of my mind. So, they pile up, creating verdant ranges out of dry deserts. What is more preferable anyway? At least in the mountains the vista out and over is incredible. It spreads like long reaching toes, never far enough, always intent for more. It is a height not of this earth, proliferating with visions unclassifiable. On it I stand erect and alone, the breeze is rustling and biting, here I stare at all ends. On it I remain sublimely disconnected, and it spreads through me, out and over, until. . .until I wiggle my toes. I am reminded. I see jagged cliffs and hatched canyons, I tremble and I break. It is only the alone again. I have caught myself in the midst of my illusions. That’s the heart-break and the mind-break, to see consistently the points on which I have fooled myself into believing either one way or another. A solution? Stop listening, stop believing, stop reiterating that which I obviously can’t deny. Just go, go, go, forget, use the heights and stop complaining.

Yes, this is all part death rattle. The same death rattle I have swore my allegiance against on various occasions. Ha! As I was saying earlier, I was wrong. Still that doesn’t make my partaking in it any more right. Death rattle. How does it go again? Jesus died on the cross to make possible the flame that is everlasting life. He suffered so we don’t have to. As Henry Miller aptly sums, “consign to the living flame that which is dead.” Devour that which devours. Why keep shaking and rattling the bones? Is it lovely music? Is it because they are hallow and reminiscent of chimes at the doorway of the temple? Maybe it is simply out of boredom. To devour that which is devouring, a lesson hard learned, especially for a born perpetuator.

Why such an attachment to that which causes pain? We stand in front of the mirror to watch the face of suffering. We watch the eyebrows of anger, the forehead of fear, the mouth of sadness, thinking, “Look at me, I feel intensely. With my suffering I wash away all other paltry sufferings that have gone before. I am the great martyr!” Through devaluation we find justification for exaltation. It’s a twisted way of going about things. We take what we can’t have and build a fortress out of it. Clamoring up those false walls, no wonder we slip with much more force.

Seville, Spain
Winter 2005


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