Reaping Rewards: Word Flood in Yemassee

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Here’s another non-rejection that I’ve racked up from my original Submission Bonanza! 

Word Flood,” my first published creative nonfiction piece, just came out in Yemassee.

I’ve pasted the original text below for your reading enjoyment!

 

Her words sank.  Not quickly like an anchor, or with a splash like a rock.  Instead as she spoke, her words fluttered in the air, held afloat by the humidity.  They tickled earlobes, in a language half a world away. Pieces of ideas curled with the wind among tendrils of jasmine, leaving a heavy scent wafting through the city.  Nouns and verbs together toyed with bodhi leaves, pulling them along as they flitted to the ground.  They landed gently on the Chao Phraya, quivering on the surface of the river and leaving ripples too small to be noticed.  Amongst water hyacinth and coconuts they floated, gathering silt and absorbing the wetness of the city.  In this way, the words gained weight and began to drown.

Before long, they swam in the wake of snakefish and nestled between the scales of water monitors.  The more weight they gathered, the more they were immersed, the harder it was to see them. The light had trouble reaching them between algae and waste and even apsaras would be hard pressed to find them.  They landed on the river bed, stirring up the bottom and throwing silt into an already murky darkness.  Covered.

And soon all her pen could do was draw the curves of the paths her words had taken, as if trying to retrace their steps.  Searching between the roots of ficus trees and the stamens of hibiscus for where she had misplaced them.  A world made of tendrils and bubbles, floating in a silent and wordless black and white.  Sea horses and leaves and turtles all swirled with a silent current.  Owls became nok hoo, knock, who? and lost their edges and their names.  Questions were gone and statements no longer made sense.  The world churned as if everything were from the point of view of those lost words, staring up at far away surface of a river that always was moving.

And then there was a flood.  The water seeped slowly, climbing up through sewers and along the streets.  The river rose past dams and sandbags bringing pythons into houses and buoys into cars.  It brought everything from its depths, decay, sand, and her words, which huddled against a curb and waited for the waters to recede.  After months, the river left, burrowing back into its banks but leaving its refuse to dry in the sun.  The sediment cracked and caked.  Mosquito larvae dried like tiny raisins.  The decomposing river sludge made banana trees greener and left seedling strangler figs sprouting along sidewalks.  And, as if growing out from cracked pavement, her words dried, too, finally able to breathe and soak up a little bit of the warm winter sun.

 

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Word Flood (Winter 2012.)

“Self-expression must pass into communication for fulfillment.” –Pearl S. Buck

Her words sank.  Not quickly like an anchor, or with a splash like a rock.  Instead as she spoke, her words fluttered in the air, held afloat by the humidity.  They tickled earlobes, in a language half a world away. Pieces of ideas curled with the wind among tendrils of jasmine, leaving a heavy scent wafting through the city.  Nouns and verbs together toyed with bodhi leaves, pulling them along as they flitted to the ground.  They landed gently on the Chao Phraya, quivering on the surface of the river and leaving ripples too small to be noticed.  Amongst water hyacinth and coconuts they floated, gathering silt and absorbing the wetness of the city.  In this way, the words gained weight and began to drown.

Before long, they swam in the wake of snakefish and nestled between the scales of water monitors.  The more weight they gathered, the more they were immersed, the harder it was to see them. The light had trouble reaching them between algae and waste and even apsaras would be hard pressed to find them.  They landed on the river bed, stirring up the bottom and throwing silt into an already murky darkness.  Covered.

And soon all her pen could do was draw the curves of the paths her words had taken, as if trying to retrace their steps.  Searching between the roots of ficus trees and the stamens of hibiscus for where she had misplaced them.  A world made of tendrils and bubbles, floating in a silent and wordless black and white.  Sea horses and leaves and turtles all swirled with a silent current.  Owls became nok hoo, knock, who? and lost their edges and their names.  Questions were gone and statements no longer made sense.  The world churned as if everything were from the point of view of those lost words, staring up at far away surface of a river that always was moving.

And then there was a flood.  The water seeped slowly, climbing up through sewers and along the streets.  The river rose past dams and sandbags bringing pythons into houses and buoys into cars.  It brought everything from its depths, decay, sand, and her words, which huddled against a curb and waited for the waters to recede.  After months, the river left, burrowing back into its banks but leaving its refuse to dry in the sun.  The sediment cracked and caked.  Mosquito larvae dried like tiny raisins.  The decomposing river sludge made banana trees greener and left seedling strangler figs sprouting along sidewalks.  And, as if growing out from cracked pavement, her words dried, too, finally able to breathe and soak up a little bit of the warm winter sun.

The Weight of Bangkok (Thailand. Summer 2006.)

It was a small splash, the first time the Chao Phraya River touched her skin. It collected itself, making a rivulet, its own tiny clone, and slithered from her shoulder, down her back. It was easy enough to brush off at the time; her attention was focused on ochre-colored robes of tan-colored monks and the smell of sewage. The busy-ness of Bangkok is enough to distract even the most worldly of travelers. It would caress her often while she tried to wrap her mind around the city. She often mistook its gentle droplets for her own sweat. Little by little it seeped into her clothes. The algae would get invisibly caked in her hair. Bathing only made it worse, since it was the same snake that came out of the faucet, running in tiny streams down her legs and nesting in her drain, just waiting for the next time she would stand above it. It brought all of Thailand into her room. The sweat from the bathing mother. The piss of the Ko Kret buffalo. The decomposing rice leaves. The acrid saliva of Asian Open-Billed Storks. The ashes of incense from Wat Pai Lom. The river left them on her eyelashes, resting on the shelf of her belly button and curled in the ques of her pubic hair. In less than two weeks time, she was drowning in it, tangled in water hyacinth.

The combination of water hyacinth and wet heat left me with dreams of the Amazon. Before long, each day was laced with ayahuasca. My stomach ached for and wretched with the newness of each experience. My appetite left me completely, and food became just another beautiful band in the rainbow of the life around me. Piranhas nibbled my toes as I walked down streets dusty with the resin of car exhaust, curry-laced smoke, and incense cinders. Vipers strung themselves from telephone poles and carried the secrets of the city from Klongsan to Phra Pinklao. The sky let loose a constant rain of wet sunshine. Even at night, nothing was dry. The moist fervor of the city covered my body, making it a struggle to keep my hips still.

In the end, it was the weight of everything which finally drove me mad. Every blanket was too heavy to sleep under. Just thinking became dangerous because one could get smothered under the weight of a simple idea. Each thought that went into the air collected condensation and dust, becoming more and more tangible and visible, until it finally dropped to the ground in a puddle and actually existed.