Stephen Kessler: Barrio Santa Cruz


Barrio Santa Cruz

The whitewashed walls, the cobblestones, the gift shops with mementos of Seville, Buñuel’s blinding camera angles catching the stylized light, and so close to the Alcázar and to the river and the gypsies on the other side, this labyrinth of little streets and plazas, and little patios and courtyards enclosing quiet privacies, the old magnolias erupting unexpectedly, the oranges, lemons, dark eyes, olive skin, all the flamenco romance of an exile’s memory-drenched poems engulf you as you stroll, as if there were nothing more important to do than immerse yourself in his melancholy the better to see through his eyes and smell through his nose and feel through his sun-browned skin the heat and warmth of these historic streets, taking a few steps in the lost footprints and having the same transience. These days near the Guadalquivir are rare and you must be aware of everything you are losing, all those Spanish glances and the long counters heaped with savory dishes in the bars and the tilework trimming the white plaster and the heavy wooden doors with iron hardware and the terra cotta roofs, your own strangeness somehow at home, like his, the poet who never returned except in words. That’s why you have to be him, keeping alive awareness of a hometown that was his and that nourished his earliest sensory understanding of chance’s erotic generosity, its random gifts in the way of native neighborhoods whose childhood grasp of the magical persists. It seems right here though it was long ago you first set foot there during a drought and the guitars you heard were either yours because they were just under your balcony, or his because he caught them on paper and sent them back from afar, you can hardly tell because time by now has had its way with you and turned you inside out so much you’ll never find your way back to who you were or where you read it. The arch through which you walk is the one whose curve returns to cover your tracks so that even later no one will know you were here.

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