Essays

Freewriting

MARY MEIGS

Mary Meigs and her friend Lise Weil, editor of Beyond Recall, met regularly to do freewriting together. For each exercise they chose a line or phrase from the work of a poet they both admired; then, inspired by that “prompt,” both women wrote for five or ten minutes, recording whatever came to mind (and hand). The writers whose work they were reading when these freewriting pieces were composed include Beth Follett, Jovette Marchessault, W. S. Merwin and Wislawa Symbovska.

IN SONG TURNS THE DAILY. In the deaf ear turns the death of the daily a deafness of some listening spirit not an ear though the deaf ear doesn’t help the deaf spirit is deaf to the fresh snow thrown like custard pies on the bare trees, to slapstick it hears the snide laugh and it hears the acuity or massive dark weight of blankness. Does the daily turn to song and epiphany? Yes, the little epiphany is laughter bubbling from no reality from necessity like a bird’s song—hormones laughing hormones’ song the healer the daily.

WITH YOUR HAND TURNING TO STONE.The literal atoms not an interesting stone more like cement the heavy listlessness and brute no less interesting than paralysis. Would that it were sandstone, the stuff of sunshine the mother of sand or vice versa. Warm stone not brimstone whatever the petrified interior of a cement mixer. I have become this.

THE COMMONPLACE MIRACLE.That so many miracles take place. I can’t think straight about the everyday wonder of miracles: maybe all is miracle and anything commonplace is miraculously commonplace. It is an inside-out miracle when something miraculous is explained and becomes commonplace. Can you say that the sun going round the earth was miraculous. Nobody thought so. The movements of the spheres used to baffle and boggle my mind in the old days when miracles were more surprising but not more frequent. But I can’t pursue this elusive point how can a miracle baffle when it is as obvious as the nose on your face. A troll could explain it, a fruit-fly could explain it. Look at me, she says.

THE BLIND AND WEEPING BEAR. We can’t speak of this image which is an exact description. Everybody weeps the python weeps the whale weeps on the beach the elephant, Sadie, lies down in the circus and sobs and is comforted. How rare it is that Sadie has been comforted. Well I’m getting distraught and hate my fellow-people like an old creaky phonograph—in the sweet-smelling hayfield. The Spanish were scared of mad cow disease and a cow came to protest against their intention to slaughter her. She was crying. She was in the Montreal Gazette. The Hindu saga in Almanabad says you have seven lives to go through and perhaps the next will be the cow.

THAT WINTER IT SEEMED THE CITY. Was a wilderness of seeming without being. It, too, seemed in an effort to be being beyond seeming. A barrier of snow of course and days when it curved over walls and made icy glittering fringes bright as a sliver of sunshine.

WE ARE NOT SURE OF SORROW. Which is one of the major sorrows like the major Tarot cards. Sorrow sometimes so simple for so simple a thing something that hasn’t returned our love or has been very ambiguous about it. I remember the spider hanging on her thread over the dining-room table. She was too motionless too like a state of rigor mortis. They buried her with tears in a tiny part of the garden they grieved for years and keep her in their memory perhaps the truest love they have ever enjoyed. Perfect things with eight legs with superhuman eyes. The overlooked the unloved they are our polestars. That is all I have to say—the crux of the wonder of being alive.

HELD YOU BACK. Have you ever turned on your shoulder? Even the thought impedes thought that holds me back and turning, the salvation of sleep is suspended on a lightly trembling anxiety the attempt to arrest thought and there is that mass of nothing again so densely heavy that it clogs every brain passage.

LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS. Something weightless and beautifully almost airborne united with that mushroom smell so earthily eloquent that it can never speak more truly of compost and transformation. Any earthworm could tell you that. Yes, tallying up my joys where can I find one that satisfies the senses with the psyche thrown in. The sublime delicacy. . .

SHE WHO THINKS DEEPLY. She doesn’t think deeply. Did she ever? She knows that deceptive certainty—that this is a deep thought that no one has ever thought before. It may be that a river will change course if you look at it long enough it may be that deep thoughts cannot be thought by someone who was born with a spoon in her mouth. This is the most corrosive deep thought that I ever thought. It has touched my grey matter with drought.

Votre avenir est la! Your future is there. . . How comfortable and inhabitable these futures were—when? when we were comfortable in our mistakes—and there was room for optimism in even the smallest space—the airhole a fiddler crab makes in the sand. The small places where there’s always room to meditate. Mussels meditate waiting for the next wave and the bracing smell of salt water. We must open ourselves to minute pleasures.

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MARY MEIGS

Mary Meigs (1917–2002) was a writer and artist, author of Lily Briscoe: A Self-Portrait, The Medusa Hotel, The Box Closet, In the Company of Strangers, and The Time Being, all published by Talon, as well as many articles and essays.


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