Posts Tagged 'free write'

Jupiter Flintlock

Jupiter Flintlock stood in the stockade, stoic as always. It was not his first time. He’d been broken and humiliated so many times in that stockade, it was just like any other day, far as he was concerned. There was a certain belief among the founding fathers that Jupiter’s mind was not quite right, that Jupiter’s failure to whimper or drool was a sign of an essential moral failure. For every chicken Jupiter plucked, it was back to the stockade. For every pint of beer he pilfered, it was back to the stockade. He’d taken his vow of silent suffering as a child, during the years when bamboo was used to whip little sinners into submission. With every blow, with every welt, he brought himself steady into another world. A world of spinning rings, a world of tigers, a world of ravens cawing and nasturtiums blooming. His bloody legs were thin as grasshoppers; the small animals who scampered past did not see a man or a boy. Only a quiet creature, like them, holding still as he could as the blows came down. Silence became Flintlock’s fame, his number one foolishness and strength. The boy is father to the man, he said to himself later, much later, when the stockade had burned to the ground.

I don’t remember

 I don’t remember

I don’t remember that particular poem. You know, the one that goes dah-dah-dah pebbles dah duh rain rain. The one that goes on about the us-ness of us, of you and me and me and you.

I don’t remember the smell of eggplant. I don’t remember when daylight savings changes. I don’t remember the password I use for websites that are not important to me. I don’t remember the name of my fifth grade teacher. Mrs. Alley. I do remember the name of my fifth grade teacher. I don’t remember where I put my earbuds, as I was unpacking from our trip to Catalunya. I don’t remember the name of the town where we had the gazpacho topped with cherry sorbet. I do remember the taste of cool cherry surprising my tongue. I don’t remember the name of our apples, but I think they are Braeburn. I don’t remember my grandfather’s first name. I don’t remember the recipe for a winter squash stuffed with nuts and wild rice for which I am famous, although I only made it once and remember vaguely that it was a great vegetarian entrée for Thanksgiving. I don’t remember how to knit. I never did remember how to knit. It was as if it was the first time every time I attempted to knit. I don’t remember what you call the device that raises and lowers the waters from Puget Sound so that ships can go out and in, in and out to open water.



Considerations of a burgeoning trinity

The hermit in the cave has a funny bone. It is located somewhere between her elbow and her thigh. The funny bone connects the body, mind, and spirit of the hermit at unexpected moments. Some days, it occurs to Hermit that soup is like mind, all salt and broth and herbs swimming together, and she laughs until she is so thirsty she drinks it all down. Some days it occurs to her that sex is like spirit, transcendent and earthy, and she laughs til her thighs ache with wanting. Some days it seem to her that mind is like criticism, architecture and chemistry, sewn together in a complex and terrible quilt, and she laughs until her eyes shoot sparks into the dry forest, where she learns about the danger of mind.

The dangers of mind, body, and spirit coexist in the person of Hermit, who lives in a cave that is always 72 degrees. The cave of Hermit is full of shadows and hieroglyphs, old stories and maps to somewhere else. In one corner, someone has written cogito ergo sum. It is not known who wrote those words; they have been there since before meaning was a consideration. Hermit calls the writer “Anonymous”. Anonymous Bosch is the pseudonym adopted by Hermit when she puts on her widow’s weeds and wanders out of the cave into the blinding sun. There is ambivalence in leaving the cave for Hermit, who believes in cloister but also in compassion, which cannot be practiced alone. And so she prays, alone, and sings, in company, and serves the beans and rice that feed the brains that think the thoughts that write the words that live in the cave that thought built.

In the cave that thought built there are three Hermits who live in a single body. The body of Hermit is strong and brown, the mind of Hermit is calm and wild; the spirit of Hermit is sky, water, fire and air. Hermit thinks herself alone, feels herself in her body: skin, lungs, bowels, hands, the jittering synapses of sensation. Hermit feels her spirit ecstatic, expansionist, empire building across skies and centuries, knocking down the walls of time and reason. Hermit leaves the cave, Hermit goes back home, over and over and over again.


Walter in high school was not voted most likely to.

Walter in college did not distinguish himself.

Walter as an agent in his father’s insurance agency fell asleep in front of the green blinking data entry screens that measured out his days one blink, then another, then another.

Walter as a fiancée was comforting but not hot.

Walter slept well and drove a 4 door Buick when he was 22.

Walter’s hairline began to recede, slowly, at 27, but never blossomed into full-on male pattern baldness.

At 35, Walter’s wife, Elaine, left him for a slightly younger version of himself. Walter was mystified but not furious about this. They had no children, and Elaine disappeared back into the lake of his undistinguished youth without a ripple.

At 38, Walter went to his neighborhood Whole Foods market, where he bought a pint of black bean, corn and red bell pepper salad. Walking to the men’s room on his way out, he passed the community bulletin board. He read all the ads, in order, from left top to right bottom. At the far right corner, almost expired per the store’s 30 day policy, was an ad for International Cooking Classes, to be held in a home some two miles from the store. Walter pulled the tab with the phone number and stuck it in his wallet, where it stayed for months.

Around Thanksgiving, Walter, reflecting that he was almost 40, divorced, childless and uninterested in himself, found the tab in his wallet and called the number.

“No, no international cooking classes any more. I didn’t get enough people signed up. I’m teaching homeopathics now. You could sign up for that, it’s here at my house,” said the woman, whose name was Reina. No, Walter told her, he didn’t really want to study homeopathics. He wanted to learn to cook. Did she do private cooking lessons?

There was a short silence on the phone, and a brief negotiation about the cost of private lessons.

On the following Thursday, Walter went to Reina’s house. He brought with him an apron and a chef’s hat, both virginal white, and a set of hot mitts. Reina promised to provide the cooking utensils and the food.

That first week they sat at the table looking at cookbooks, identifying utensils by name, defining some basic cooking methods – dry heat, baking, braising, sautee, and so on. Walter took notes.

The second week they met at the Whole Foods in the produce department and they talked produce – quality indicators in different fruits and vegetables, seasonality, local growing patterns. They touched and smelled, they looked at prices and they looked at weather. Walter took notes.

The third week they met at Reina’s house. Walter brought pancetta, walnuts, chard, goat cheese, baguette, wine, beets and olive oil. At 7 p.m., they began.


At the graduation the handful who were not graduating but attending nonetheless gathered in the handicapped restroom, the first handicapped restroom in the state. Bigger than a standard one person stall, less bustable than a walk-in men’s room. The tallest of them assumed the responsibility of improvising a pipe, which he made with a toilet paper tube and a bit of aluminum foil taken from a chicken parfait, an introductory and ultimately failed offering from Wendy’s, which at that time still had Dave speaking for himself on the commercials, where he played the role of benign protestant mid-western Colonel Sanders, with a dash of the great and powerful Oz thrown in.

The smoke. The tallest. The graduation.  Deming was experiencing a resurgence of sorts, a resurgence surprising for a town that had never had much of a surge in the first place. Deming, New Mexico. A destination in the middle of nowhere, railroad cars filled with iron lungs, one car after another, in the tubercular days of 100 years ago. The sun, the air, the dry hot blue climate sold itself to the bleeding lungs of northeasterners with money and their pale little children, who coughed blood into their handkerchiefs and either died in Deming or did not die in Deming.

The underwear favored by the gently wheezing young ladies at the Deming Women’s Sanitorium was billowy and typically of thin white linen, suitable for the dry hot climate. They would lie, languid and bored, with ribbons in their hair, in their white linen bloomers in the iron lung that would save them and send them back to New York, to Boston, to Connecticut. The ribbons were died in the pretty spring colors of a cooler, wetter climate – periwinkle, saffron, lilac, pale pink peony.

The young ladies lay in their iron lungs thinking of dances, thinking of young men, thinking of meringues.  Some of them are buried in the cemetery in Deming, and they have names like flowers, too. Flowers and gemstones; the young women of the early twentieth century were prone to swooning, dying young, and living to see another day.

One such young woman was raised in the Deming Sanitorium, having been sent there as a seven-year-old. Her name was Daisy – yes, this is true – and her papa had been an entrepreneur, a boastful man prone to self-deception and untimely truthful revelations to shareholders. Daisy’s papa, it is said, was single-handedly responsible for some runs on some banks, helping to trigger the domino effect that revealed certain inconsistencies in banking practices of that last century. In the middle of Daisy’s rest cure, while the mechanical lung pushed and pulled her ambivalent relationship with survival itself, a man with a shovel smashed Daisy’s father’s head in, leaving her an orphan very far away from anyone who knew or cared anything about her. Her mother, having succumbed already some time earlier to the consumption that lay Daisy low, had nothing to offer, and so, Daisy was on her own.

A spot of gothic romance

His eyes met hers. Her eyes met his. Their eyes met. Above their heads, black clouds formed, the winds began to howl and shake. Someone must die.

“In these terrible times, sir, I find it best to speak rarely and gently,” she said, looking back down at her needlework. Her voice was light and firm.

“Yes, indeed, m’lady, I understand that a raised voice would be improvident,” he said, reaching to take the needlepoint from her hands. She resisted only briefly. Pulling the white linen back, he revealed beneath it a letter, open and sitting in her lap. One eyebrow lifting slightly, he took the letter, folded it and slipped it into his cape.

“No need to worry about this, madam,” he said. “I will look after it until it is needed.”

“Yes, of course,” she responded, remaining seated, remaining composed, remaining convinced as ever that someone must die. Now quite certain which of them that might be.

 Outside were the sounds of preparation that had become common over these past few months. Horses and men, the smell of burning hooves as the animals were shod, the excited yells of small boys chasing soldiers and knights-in-training through the muddy streets. Enemies came in all forms in those days: enemies of state, illness, criminals and people made mad by poverty and dirt. The men in the castle held council after council, each beating the drum for his own reason. War. Glory, wealth, religion, property, power.

Who holds a woman’s letter over her head, leaving behind an unspoken threat? This young man has just taken a letter from the most dangerous woman of her place and time. Pity he did not recognize her; they’d met before, in other circumstances. If he had realized from whom he took the letter, the situation in which he eventually found himself might have been avoided altogether.


I am leaving the hive, you see. It is my head, my head which is filled with the buzzing of bees, which is filled with longing, with honey, the comb, the drive to predict and to reproduce. I am leaving the hive, you see. It is my head, which is filled with honey, which is filled with a strange desire that is sweet and unreproducible. The honeybee has a particular song, you see. It is not the song of the wasp or the hornet. It is not the thin stinging whing of the mosquito, it is not the high whining cry of the child whose wishes have not been granted.

I am leaving the hive, you see, with a longing in my head that makes a buzz, a droning sound that says wings can beat so fast, too fast, so much faster than heartbeats, and the beating of wings can stir the winds, can carry them over oceans, over tides, over deserts and into high mountains, the clouds, the skies.

I am leaving the hive, you see, away from the honey, away from the drone, away from the sagebrush, the leaves and the waves at the wide ocean’s edge and up into the high, the rare mountain air, where breathing is hard but sweet, where breathing captures, raptures, wraps the straining lungs in wishes, in hailing, exhaling. The hive does buzz, does fly, does drive. The hive does predict, does produce, reproduce. Produce, reproduce, encase, contain. I am leaving the hive, you see, and that is enough.

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