from We are a Fugitive Assemblage


Big Sur smells like woods and sea. Sounds like wind and waves. Deetjen’s is a 1920s dream of rusticity holding fast to a sense of history. Clinging to the mountain across the highway from cliff-drop to the sea. When the sea rises high enough and the stone cliffs are devoured it will be beachfront property. In those days I found ghosts extremely unpleasant. Not any more. I was in a downstairs room, in the cabin to the southwest corner. Faces and fingers at the windows. In my sleep I saw the ridges from the old tools turning the soil even as they slumber under concrete. What sort of hands was I looking for. Strong. If you do not know it, this is because you are not supposed to. Waking, I heard footsteps and then the creak of the bed above me. Laughter and the unmistakable sounds of sex. The garden is deeper than we thought. Hours, they fucked, used the bathroom then fucked again. I might have complained. I had been inside my own mind for so many days I felt my discomfort was insanity, the agony I experienced something necessary and even good. the water is their chaos The darkness, you are tethered to a jangling leash. Early morning footsteps above, closing door, silence. I’m all wires. you cannot skip ahead you’ll be saying something entirely I got up, showered, washed the sweat of fear down the drain, sent it to what ever sea. When her father died of typhus there wasn’t anything to do but bury him in sandy ground and keep going. I brushed the taste out of my mouth. I could barely keep my breakfast down but I did. How many hours was I after the couple that had come in late, not slept and left before I’d gotten out of bed. If I found them I wondered what would I do to them. myself without me. What did I have in my bag, in my mind, in the trunk of the car that was mine alone. A California native by what uncertain rights? Jettison weight. Like the bodies of your family, the bodies of your lovers. Keep moving. Richter scale, under the desk. All these cliffs on the west of me and the mountain range to my east connected directly, somehow under me, to quakes down south. All the earth knows its own business.

Jennifer Calkins is an evolutionary biologist, writer and law student living in Seattle. Her Story of Witchery was published by Les Figues. The Quail Diaries (Blurb Publishing) emerged out of her research project in Mexico. You can find her sometimes on Twitter at @jdcalkins2001.

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