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Amber Paulen

The Train

From The Body’s Long Madness, Part 2:

Clickity-Clack! and the echo of powerful vibrations, bodily lulling vibrations, smoothly palpitating vibrations. Clackity-Click! Valerie rides the train that is her travels, she is being shot down the tracks. At her side, and looking in, is Valerie’s own reflection. Behind the reflection streams the the scene of blurred landscapes and cityscapes; one continuous place, completely lacking in delineation. Below her surges the train, the source of the living vibrations and of the endless movement that radiates through her being like the all-powerful sun, eclipsing everything.


The headlight is the train’s first cyclopean or third eye. It splays outward in a steady-arch cutting through the dark, cutting through the soft curves of rolling hills, cutting through countryside and villageside, cutting through the crumbling of Europe’s finest decay and its shameful progress.

One solitary farmhouse stays stuck in the distance as the foreground streams by. The farmhouse is at the end of a cypress lined lane and there is a billow of thick grey smoke caught on the chimney’s lip. The chimney, the farmhouse, the cypress lined lane have been separated and for a fleeting moment, defined; in the same fleeting moment they too rush by, another blur, another chimney, another farmhouse, another cypress lined lane. Valerie has left her reflection pasted over that fleeting moment as a reminder, “I am not only this forward going.”


The pulse of the great train resonates through her. She feels like the insides of a great bell; she is the omnipotent throbbing. Sometimes, when Valerie’s head falls back against the sticky brown upholstery, when her eyelids fall, and when her eyelids fall there is such an alliance fused between herself and the whole works that you would not believe. Valerie gets confused: Valerie thinks she is the train, that she is the one director of movement, that the vibrations coalescing, originate within her and that the train is mere assistant to discovery.

The thing is, the more forward Valerie goes, the more distance there is between who she was and who she is; what she once believed and what she now believes as lies; the places she once rested in and how she hasn’t stopped since. The more forward Valerie goes the deeper she burrows, the deeper she burrows the faster the boundaries fall, the faster the boundaries fall the more seeing, feeling, knowing knowledge truth she gains. So that eventually she will be brought around so that there is forward no more, only a pasted reflection atop quickly caught and random memories.

That’s getting ahead of myself. I must stay where I am: Valerie and her movement, Valerie as movement, Valerie senza borders between her own flesh-blood body and the train’s ruddy metal encasings. Valerie being shot down the tracks. Clickity-Clack!

When Valerie’s eyelids rise she is shocked to see rain rushing over the pane of the window in wide rivers and small streaking rivulets; she is surprised: What depths she has just gone! The sun has broken, muffled and stifled as it is, behind the heavy rolling clouds. Valerie knows it must be early morning for the day has not been broken into completely; there is a shrouded element of the air out there, as if rain and grey mist have become one in the same element. If it were not for the low and muted light Valerie would remain clueless of the time. She does not know where: Where? somewhere between here and there. There, out the window beyond these hills sweetly rolling is a grey ocean of winter’s swells and breaks. Here, in the drab brown compartment of a night-train, occupants come and go. Valerie thinks they must be headed off to work, it looks like this is their daily routine.

Once in awhile, Valerie disembarks in a village or a town or a city or the capital city where she wanders the streets without maps and sits on their paint-chipping benches smoking cigarettes and watching the day pass everyone by. In this emerging pattern of habit, Valerie is beginning to think that she is denied nothing: All countries are open to her, all cities, all towns, all villages, all streets. Valerie calls herself directionless because that is how she best operates. On and off, off and on the train.

A destination is just another dot until she enters it. Some place she’s heard about or read about or always wanted to see. Portugal’s shallow undulations have given way to flatness as the the train propels South, ever Southward. The rain has let up days ago or was it weeks? The sky is an immense crystal blue of abbreviated early winter days. Valerie is almost sure that where she is going there will be waves, she feels them, the swelling pressure and then crash! into white sea foam and salty white sea froth. The ocean. She’s been wanting to get her toes in the ocean for some time now, and of course, she can never get enough of the sun.

Bracciano Italy
May 2008


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