We take the road until we reach Lourdes. A day after I depart Spain, a train derails in Santiago. 80 or so people die. At the train station in Pau small pocket thieves make conversation. In Laruns the cash register in the supermarket breaks down. A stampede follows.

Underneath the concrete and underneath the towns there is this old ancient dreaming spirit waiting for people to live in the right way and when you do it
you have a kind of genius underneath you that you as a person don’t just possess.

Poor Bernadette is sold in every window. A neon flashing Jesus on the hillside
Against the blue mountain silhouette. All houses here are hotels. We traveled to three towns in one day. Camille Claudel wrote during her 30-year internment: “Ne m’oubliez pas.”

 

*     *

 

In contact with no message. She knelt down. Forward on her knees. Born of millers.

To get to the grotto she had to take her shoes off. The trees were not swaying.

She smiled and bowed. Her head could not be lifted for 15 days.

And ate some grass, drank muddy water from a puddle.

First 100 people came, then 800 then 3000.

 

*     *

 

Their eyes decline into devout spaces. How come nothing has healed us?

How come no one can obtain a different permission? On stretchers the dying line up to Ave Maria. Outside beer-drinking internationals cheer.

But Lourdes becomes one indiscernible flesh, limbless, half able bodies gather.

The movement is from fear to miracle. The grotto is moist. The original spring protected by glass. Candles are carried on backs. The ill are bathed and covered in blankets.

 

*     *

 

Hotel Le Solitude watches over the flocks. Human sweat rises from the streets of Lourdes. You can eat either pizza or crepes. Streams of white wheelchairs move. We lie on the rooftop and fall asleep to the singing procession. I think there might be bedbugs in our room. The Bangladeshi beggar, the British amputee, elders in communal dress, blind women, nuns with plastic roses, mold of decrepit hotel walls. I imagine I will throw up from the water, but instead my knee heals and we can depart for the last leg of mountain border.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

In 2013 I embarked on a journey crossing various border regions in Europe. The walks followed national borderlines, explored borders within countries, i.e. the former East-West division in Germany, as well as artificially enforced natural divisions, such as the Mediterranean with its increased border patrol policies. This section was written while traversing the Pyrenees, from the Atlantic to the sea. I am indebted to those who accompanied me on my walks. Strangers and kin who effort this space, our holding in the gaze of each other.

The line “Underneath the concrete …” is drawn from from Martin Shaw’s essay “A Culture of Wildness.”