Reading The Blue Clerk, 137

“Verso 38”

I have always worried something would be unmasked if I went to a place that was imbued with aura and felt nothing. If others felt hauntings and sublimities and I noticed the dust in the left corner of the room, the mice droppings under the tattered chair, the frayed seam on the dusty lampshade, the uneven hang of the curtains.

What if sublimity escaped me?

(Have always worried is hyperbole.)

These are the notes the clerk deciphers.

Once, I stayed at a charming B&B in New England, famed for its proximity to a famous poet. A notorious poet. The charm eluded me. The rooms felt too small. The place too dark. Perhaps it had absorbed all the desires from people who wanted it to be everything. Inspiration. Guide. Memory. History. Love. Muse. Confessional. Advocate. Absolution. It felt too stuffed of other things. It was an unpleasant heaviness that was not mine.

(If I am not inspired by what is said to be inspirational, then what can be said?)

I looked into the same mirror as Neruda, I touched his telephone, his hairbrushes; peered at his briefcases.

Maybe I have misunderstood the purpose of pilgrimages. And, in truth, I have never wanted to go on a pilgrimage. It is one thing to remain attuned to the otherwheres and otherwhens that saturate our every breath, to listen to and for the voices that linger, to catch a snatch of this or that melody as it conjures and sways. To be attuned. It is another to pursue the maelstrom. I am not that brave.

You will be walking and a wave of something will come over you. Sometimes, a flourishing of joy you cannot explain. More often, paralyzing grief, grief that leaves you walking impossibly slowly, with pains in your body that make no sense. Some mornings, you wake up with fresh scars. We say places mark us. If you visit this place, it will mark you: the tiniest of thorns will thread across your legs and back. The sharpest of rocks will hobble your walk, even through your stoutest shoes. You will find tears on your face and blame the wind, even though the day is still.

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