On the 7th of September, the Deluge

Note: This is a fictional piece.  She didn’t know when they left.

When the words, a slew of them, went fluttering up, back into the mackerel sky. Everything was still the same, she thought: the suitcase smelling of mold, cinnamon, and cologne, filled with books, and Mother still calling on Tuesdays from her rocking chair.

But she wasn’t threading words like string anymore. She wasn’t staring hard at the way the rabbits paused at midnight when she came home or at the various wood grains on the tabletops. The way some people had long fingers and some people had short. The words now lay on the plane of her cerebrum like dead fish on a dock, under a mass of cloud. They sat there, feverish above the grey water, stinking and sweating in the open air, gasping for want of life.

Slowly the trees began wilting and the night stopped brandishing violent beauty.

She knew something had to be done.

After a long wait, weeks (or months if she was honest with herself), it was decided that enough was enough. She decided to throw away the gems and golden spices, the carved sculptures and heavy timepieces she had strapped to her back, two buckles each, and then moved out of the mud. She calculated the cost. It was worth it. Laying out what she had left, goblets and buckets, glass dishes and bowls made from clay, she sat on a rock to wait. She lay on her back and watched for them.

She counted a bird, then a beetle. There was a toad with a million lumps, slippery, that hopped near her, around in the wet, bright grass. The sun was not there behind the black trees. She would sit on the smooth, silvery slab of a stone all day if she had to. The words would come. Patience.

The mist hung.

And then, without warning, it happened.

There was a cracking sound, and then a noise similar to the rustling of water.

Like a ripple in the sky, flashes of rainlight, the words started falling from the clouds. They came quickly - in sentences and pages, whole stories in fact. The letters got stuck in tree branches and some missed the cups altogether and fell in little tumbling rivulets off the boulder and into a stream. Where certain words landed, plants and flowers began sprouting out of the ground. She was surprised when a whole building, beautifully carved, sprang up to her left after a page sank under the grass.

She was collecting them in her arms, grabbing and holding as many as she could fit between both hands, pouring them into the bags and saucers and boxes she had cleverly laid out. There was a song in the air, arresting and lovely, that made her pause. The words were on the wind too, between everything, the strains of an aria or a woman humming. The deep vibrant notes of a man singing opera.

This was the start of the great flood she’d been waiting for.

She walked near the woods, plucking script out of the puddles.


To clear up some confusion, this is a creative writing piece I wrote for a class last semester. A regular essay takes a subject, states the central point, and supports it with two to three points of evidence. A lyric essay takes a subject and dances around the central point, never fully stating what the essay is about but circling its outer edges in fragments. This is a lyric essay. I thought about climbing inside of a tree bud yesterday. Everything would be damp and misting if I had: a rubbery birth green that I would pull up to my chin like a sheet. The weight of the vast happenings in my immediate living space had suddenly felt very thick and bulky that morning. Difficult. I was small enough, then - felt intimidated enough, in comparison to these great things, that I might as well have carefully crawled under the tongue of the leaf where it was smooth and guarded in the shade. In fact, I would have had the weather permitted. In my mind, my breathing would have been more secure I think - honeyed and methodically lyrical.

I was standing in the street, by the corner of Grand and South Oxford, when I first thought of it. The black-steel city lights were muted and had blinked off only an hour ago, and I felt the static from the late electricity just as I could feel that the TV was on in the family room all the way from upstairs as a child. I usually assumed it was a sixth sense I had.

You asked where I went that night three days ago when we were in the car and the spaces got all wide in my head and the lights on the top of the theatre flickered. I said that I didn’t have to tell anyone. And it was true because I didn’t, but I mostly said it so you would say that we were going home instead of out and throw all our unused napkins heavily into a garbage can. Families are such plaited things.

When I was six, or eight, or any of those ages when you can be completely unguarded and trusting, I used to sit in the backseat of the car while we drove through Minneapolis and watch the orange lights spot the black expanse and quiver as we went over the 35W bridge with a great rushing sound. That brown, velvety interior is the most secure place I can think of now. I could see that the safest locale for me was in a backseat, and so generally, I always volunteer to let others drive because trusting is a lot easier when that is one’s sole option. When we passed through the underground tunnels by the city yesterday, I felt like I was floating.  The downtown buildings grew in angles over my head, and it was right.

When I think of comfort I think of the night a lot because you don’t really need as much holding in the day.

Cummings wrote a poem about someone and said that the coolness of her smile was stirring of birds between his arms. He said this “in the woods which stutter and sing” (Cummings 8).

Pondering all of this, I felt very attached to the blue postal receptacle I was leaning on next to those morning streetlights. This road, flecked with sunspots and early-morning, grey light, was fastened in my mind as an insulated place. Mom, Dad, and I used to get waffle cones at the corner shop and walk along the back streets to look at the mansions. We’d finish them in the car, generally, while we were driving back by the old, abandoned Lowertown Depot and the stars were just poking through the sky. It was a compacting feeling. I was cased in snugly with my family.

Once I lay down in the middle of a crosswalk, like a scene from a book or a movie, and stared at the sky and looked at my fingers to see if they were normal. I always wondered what my hands looked like to other people. My dad has long fingers too.

In Francis Burnett’s book, The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox lives in India with her wealthy parents. Everyone in the village is dying of cholera: “During the confusion and bewilderment of the second day Mary hid herself in the nursery and was forgotten by everyone…Once she crept into the dining-room and found it empty, though a partly finished meal was on the table and chairs and plates looked as if they had been hastily pushed back when the diners rose suddenly for some reason” (Burnett 3). She ends up drinking a leftover glass of wine, feels intensely drowsy, and wakes up to an empty house the next morning without a mother or father.

In the movie, Mary’s parents die in an earthquake, and she grabs a small ivory elephant off of the trembling nightstand and clinging to it, crawls under the bed until she is backed up against the wall in her bare feet and white, lace nightgown. Smaller places have always been safer. I wonder if all humans revert to this at some point: holding a pillow tight or leaning close to others. Dense, compact, near.

In Iowa, two weekends past, the first thing we noticed on 235 South at night was that the streetlights were wider and flatter. Everything looked crisp and very clean, like we were in one of those cities where you could get arrested for dropping your gum wrapper on the ground. We were one of three cars out at that sedated hour of the morning, and that was the only time it felt different, unsafe. I felt alarmed that everything was so empty and scattered so evenly. I was the one driving that time, though, and home was hundreds of miles away.

Little things are less threatening; I see this as a trend in all settings. Crime is higher in metropolis areas, babies like to be wrapped up tight, close to the body. Minor emotions carry less of a risk than loud, exploited ones. A tiny room has no blank space, I can see everything.

Small is safer, but then you’d never live.

regular oatmeal.

My writing professor told us once that all art, including writing, is merely a vehicle in which one tries to get a message across. She also said that if any writer looks back upon his or her writing over a great span of time (whether you be a poet, an author, a journaler in the quiet of your home, a blogger, or a post-it note writer) he or she will be able to see a trend in everything he or she has written. In her words, "We always write about the same things, over and over again. Regular oatmeal." I know this is true for me, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I don't really like it. It's difficult to write something fresh while having the weight of all the other writers in all areas of the world across all of the centuries on your shoulders. This is why my professor warned us at the beginning of the class not to write about kitschy things like breakups, spring, best friends, or katydids (the last is a large, typically green, long-horned grasshopper native to North America, and for some reason, it pops up in NWC students' short stories and poetry ALL the time).

Running out of ideas is typical. Writing a poem about writing a poem was something we talked about a lot. (Just like, for instance, the fact that I'm writing a blog about writing a blog). The best was when people would write about a desk or about a pencil or about the shape of the keys on their computer keyboard. This happened to me one time, and I wrote about the kitchen wall. When blogging, sometimes my thoughts come barreling out like a freight train, and other times, I consider closing this blog up for good because of lack of relevant or interesting content.

Another thing that every writing professor has told me is that writing needs to be practiced - just like an instrument or painting or dance; therefore, "you should write something everyday." Even if it's small or insignificant. Or completely uninteresting.

I don't know how I feel about experimenting with this on my blog. I might. But I'm blogging about it now, so that must be a start.


I've been thinking a lot about the Israelites lately. About what it would have been like to travel with a tribe of people more "numerous than the stars in the sky" and live my daily life as a nomad amidst thousands of people in a tightly knit community. So much so that, last night, I dreamt about a tree that had large clusters of grapes hanging from it just like in the Promised Land. I didn't realize they were grapes, though, when I was far away - they simply looked like large, dark purple spheres suspended from the branches. It wasn't until I was closer that I realized they were bunches of colossal, lush grapes. I've always read about the Israelites in the context of their wanderings in the desert in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. It always seemed pretty point-blank, and I would generally see it from a sky view in my mind; I'd picture the tribes from above - small oatmeal-colored dots kicking up plumes of red dust with their sandaled feet amidst beige, animal-hide tents and camels. I'd picture the dunes covered with manna some mornings, white like flowers, and I'd always picture that classic painting of Moses with his white beard flowing in the wind while majestically holding the two tablets that listed The Ten Commandments.

Lately, however, I've been wondering what daily life was like. I'm sure there's a class specifically on this at NWC, and if so, I would love to take it. I keep thinking about the culture and how they cooked their food and what their relationships looked like. Did they have their own marketplace, amidst the traveling, to sell their wares or did they simply share everything? Did they gather around great bonfires at night to dance and worship the Lord and socialize or were things more solemn than that? I wonder especially what life then would have been like for a girl of my age. Maybe at twenty-one, I would have already been married for six years and have several children of my own, or maybe I would be tending to the sheep and drawing water from the river each day to help out the rest of my family. Would the Lord have spoken to me? Like when Elijah saw the wind and the earthquake and the fire pass by, but the Lord was not in any of them - He was in the gentle whisper. One so overwhelmingly potent with God that Elijah had to throw his cloak over his face. Or would I have seen the Lord as a pillar of fire and seen His power rumbling outwards in great swells of black smoke on top of the mountain?

Maybe I would have snuck out, under the cover of night, to swim with my friends in the Red Sea or sit near the coast and feel the hot wind on my face while I talked with Him. I wonder if I would have woven clothes and blankets or if I would have known how to strip and de-gut an animal. I wonder what my dreams would have been like and how I would have handled emotions and love and deep grief. I suppose that even amidst that kind of kinship and clan, there were still many people who felt lonely or awkward or out of place too. I bet my feet would have always been caked in dust and dirt, maybe even animal poop.

I bet everything was caked in dust.

I always thought of the desert as filled with a dry, sandy kind of silt - the kind that just slides right off once you splash water on it. But maybe it was a brick-red, clay dust - the kind that stains everything and makes cleanliness difficult (shows how much I know about Middle-Eastern deserts). I bet the women hated being dirty all the time. Or maybe they just got used to it and didn't even notice. I bet the men loved it...I always feel like men feel a little more masculine when they are covered in dirt or grime.

Anyway, I am praying that God would give me eyes to see these people as more than the simplified, flat characters placed on the felt storyboard in my second-grade Sunday School class. They had lives that were not only epic but often monotonous too. They each met the Lord in different ways, and they felt passion and anger and joy in all the intensity as any human would - maybe more so.

I have lots of thoughts on this. More might come out.



the fire escape on the old schoolbuilding.

This was written for my ENG2205 class. I sit towards the left, backhand corner of the large classroom at the end of the hall, generally. The room is blue and white, flaking with age, Victorian colors. In the afternoon, I scratch a tree in the faux wood desk, Do you know you are not real maple? Do you know? I smudge the branches out by three o'clock, so I can leave nonchalantly.

There is a fire escape, too, out the window, which I watch with careful eyes. The casing on the frame always makes me think of the crude ivory elephants from India. The staircase itself is of a hidden meaning, green and blistering iron, otherworldly. It's thirty-foot skeleton sways somehow, sways with suggestion, to keep them alive and me involved. The steps themselves rasp beside the brick wall, branching this year to the other century and its deep water, with a movement that is, I would assume, strangely familiar. But the stairs still scare me like ghosts when I see them shifting up and down in the wind.
The wrought metal seems to be for thinner scholars, those lettered intellectuals with blue monogrammed sweaters, and narrow ties. There is also a solid crank, several decaying leaves musty and feral, and a severe unrest, disabled and forgotten and blank, a severe unrest that I must go stand outside underneath and see.
Four hours ago, the getaway swelled and wrinkled, what was left of it: a reedy expression of railing and lattice, and a hard shell of uncertainty by which I've always seen it move. Tomorrow, if the other buildings turn and notice, the palisade will melt to the wall. The frayed establishments bordering the iron are impish and well informed of skies, a belt of calculated systems.
When the undergrads pack up and leave slowly, like tourists or troubadours, I mostly close the curtain, and after I go the fire gate never is fully there.