Spanish Sketches

Bienaventurado eres, peregrino,
si descubres que el Camino te abre los ojos
a lo que no se ve.

- From the Pilgrim’s Beatitudes

(Blessed you are, pilgrim,
if you find that the Camino opens your eyes
to the unseen.)

Marble Arch, London

How many years have I sat here, at a distance, from the Arch? Strange like a Guston shoe, some enormous piece of a larger puzzle, left for some future Shelley to find. Now just prosaic. English. After, I found a pub just down road and insulted the bartender by leaving a tip.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The imagination attempts to fill in the unfinished. But the gaze is always surprised and surpassed with the opening of each new perspective. We climbed upwards from the ridiculous to the sublime, circling with the vulgar, stepping out onto the parapets when we could to take in the blue skies over Spain. Back down on the streets, walked by the buses idling in the well-fed memory of the Master's death.

P. Nueva, Granada 

Wandering through the winding streets with the ghost of Lorca...

A tree of blood soaks the morning
where the newborn woman groans.
Her voice leaves glass in the wound
and on the panes, a diagram of bone.

Taking this waltz over and over. Bar hopping through the Albayzin getting drunk on red wine. Smoking hashish on the balcony of our room above the Cuesta de Gomerez. The luthiers have closed up their shops and sit on the front steps playing softly. This sound of guitars rising from down below, the notes bending and blending into ancient streams flowing down from the Alhambra.

Alhambra, Granada

Up the steep way beside the falling waters, the murmurs of violent and beautiful histories. And the view like no other from the Torre de la Vela, the red tiled roofs of the city spread out on the green blanket of the land. Even the words sound magical: Alhambra.

Already, the memories are pleasant hauntings, taking on the evening golden light, rearranging into plotted narratives. I am back but the Fools that wander through these inner landscapes are full of wonder... wonderful. They re-mind me of what it is now, of how important it is now, compared to how immense it was then. I look at my own drawn lines like an old man caught by the face in the mirror.

Puerto del Vino, Alhambra

The crowds rushing in and rushing though, looking at everything through the lens of a camera. A janitor whispered to me that he never knew death had undone so many. I asked what he meant and he shook his head, spat, and walked away. Imagine what a guided tour or hell would be like. They won't even let you into the depths until you have wandered the labyrinths of boredom for what seems eternity. We sat with our admission tickets, drinking warm beer in the heat.

Puerto del Vino, Alhambra 

Searching for a Spain that lives only in the imagination. Combing through boxes of old postcards and etchings in the shops the line the Calle Reyes Catolicos. Donkeys pulling wooden carts, Quixote and Sancho starved into lean silhouette, flamenco dancers sheened in sweat, women wearing elaborate black headresses, bullfighters covered in dust, bodas full of wine and blood, and that fire that burned in all of their eyes.

Torre de las Damas, Alhambra 

Cats watching goldfish drift through reflected clouds as children scream nearby. This pool was built over ancient graves. The children of Muley Abul Hassan, executed nearby, haunt the surrounding gardens. Staring into the waters it seems your face becomes a smiling skull. We sat there with the cats watching them watch the fish, wondering how many had jumped in.

Plaza de las Flores, Murcia 

Those diamond moments under those ceaseless blue skies. Every fountain had its own language. The mandolin player tuning by starlight to the babbling of the water. And the song that he never sang was not even necessary. The old woman with the bent back and the can full of coins came by, shaking, broken and shivering. And all the human statues had to break their implacable gazes in order to look the other way. Instead of dreaming, we got drunk and waited for the dawn.

Bab Boujeloud, Fez 

Being charged for camels as we try to buy chickens. A labyrinth of cultural commerce that has taken 5,000 years to create. A disoriented Orient cut into beautiful ribbons by Western streams. The icon is all. Hood ornaments from western cars worn as necklaces. Goats slaughtered before our eyes.

Moroccan Stamp

After the King died, everything changed. It seems. Even the land is greener. Clothing, music, food all much more western. That donkey that was once tethered to the pole, that had eaten down to the rocks, surrounded by a dead brown land, that donkey is now branded with a logo and full of McDonald's discarded fries. Still nothing will ever change that train station in Asilah.

Torre Del Oro, Sevilla 

From William Burroughs' broken bed in Tangier, drinking on the roof, hash clouds drifting up with the sighs of the whores, to the God haunted streets of Sevilla, where the hooded men carried J.C. in blood and silence. Drums and trumpets pounding Morricone-like myths into the nightskies. Virgins drifted by on fire, literally.

Semana Santa, Sevilla

Drinking in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, hearing first the drums and then then the trumpets, echoes of Morricone and Deguello, mythic and western. Running and laughing ahead of the crowds, turning the corner and right into the procession. Jesus in the night sky trembling under his cross upon the shoulders of the hooded men.

Corner in Leon 

Stork's Nests. Easter Sunday with thunder and drums. Wondering if these two were awaiting instruction on where to deliver the next child: perhaps up there now, quiet in the nest, under soft feathers and grey skies.

Chapel - Santa Maria del Camino, Leon

In the plaza outside of the Convento, watching the nuns go to Mass. Breaking a loaf of bread so freah that steam rises up off of it like a ghost. Excellent wine in a green bottle with no label from the local market. Just breathing in its bouquet takes all the burdens from my mind.


Church by the Albergue, Astorga

Every muscle in my body sore. On the wall overlooking the city in a park full of orange trees. Another pilgrim approaches and remarks that it is difficult to find the time to draw with all this walking. I decide to remain in Astorga another day.

Clock Street, Ponferrada 

Standing in the shadows. Working quick. Remembering words from Steiner: «On the clock-face, the hand traverses identical divisions during the torture session and making love.» Trying to draw the skull around my eyes.

Castillo de los Templars, Ponferrada 

Wished I'd stayed longer but the rains started coming down and didn’t stop all day long. Muddy paths through rolling hills covered with vineyards. Soaked to the bone. God playing my tendons like they were bad strings on a beat-up guitar.

Break the Bottle, San Marin 

The women coming down from the mountains dance in the fountains. I sighed and leaned back into the cool wall of the refuge. It seems everyone is a friend as I smile politely and walk away - down to the center to buy a bottle of wine that I can drink alone. 


Fountain, Rabanal del Camino 

The way leading through ruined villages, stone walls crumbling and trees standing in the center of the rooms. Unseen birds whistling mournful melodies that were impossible to remember. 

Sanctuario O Cebreiro 

Heard the brothers singing but couldn't find them. Was witness to the platen and the chalice from the miracle. One dark snowy night, Bread into Flesh and Wine into Blood. But none could answer my question: After the miracle, did they still take communion? Cold cold wind blowing up there.

Slate Church, Hospital de Condessa 

Stepping over the fence to get this perspective from the field. Cows out there. And a bull with a bell. Kept hearing it clang softly, as if the bull were sneaking up behind me. Kept checking over my shoulder, trying not to get too lost in the drawing.


Slate House, H. d. Condessa 

Just down the path from the Refugio. The owner of this house came out to see what I was up to as I sat drawing with his dogs laying next to me. I asked if it was alright with him for me to draw his home - except in my awkward Spanish phrased this more as: Is it alright for me to take your home - para tomar su hogar. But he just laughed and told me it was muy bien. 

Roman Bridge, Molinaseca 

Coming down from the Foncebadon Pass, just before this town, stumbled upon a herd of goats. Billys with large bells gently clanging, they came nearly straight down a cliff to investigate me. The young ones capered around my legs wanting to play. No herder in sight. Came into town along the road that runs in front of the church in the distance. 

Cathedral, Portomarin 

This cathedral had been moved stone by stone from down near the river to up on top of this hill. The rest of the town is still under the waters of a recent reservoir, the tops of the buildings rising above the waters, rooms and doorways visible when the water is clear. 

Santiago de Compostella 

A city like a mirage shimmering over the Camino, founded upon the discovery of a set of sacred bones. It was this that dawned on me with laughter here: I had been walking the entire time towards a pile of Holy Bones. St. Boneus de Carver.

Santiago de Compostella

Bell Tower From the Cloisters. Standing on the bones of buried priests as the living rushed by giving me the evil eye. Had been trying to get a pencil rubbing of a skull off of one of the graves, but gave up after the pencil I had kept breaking on the teeth. 

St. James of the Field of Stars 

St. James of the Field of Stars, burning with blue light, covered in gold. I slapped him on his bright polished shoulder. And down in the crypt, I went to one knee to bow before the bones. As I arose, a cross of blood burned in the air before me.