the writing disorder


chelsey clammor


New Nonfiction


by Chelsey Clammor

1. Suppose I were to say I fell in love with the idea of mountains burning. Suppose I were to sit on the deck, the yellow sun encased in a gray smoke turning the deck a hue of orange and the shadows into a steady collection of blue, and think that the billows of white smoke were here for a reason. The reason being that we brought them here, and they are here for me to be fascinated by the way in which the steady mountains suddenly twist.

2. And I would smoke my cigarette on the dry orange deck, curious if I, too, would accidentally light my own fire. It is not the fire that I crave, but the way the mountains cannot control themselves.

3. Though there is the color blue. In Bluets, Maggie Nelson poetically discusses her love for the color blue. What I read in her cream pages dancing with black text is the way the blue of a fire blisters towards something going on underneath its spell, something hotter than the orange flame that spurts up from this brilliant color which descends into a core of dark.

4. In the forest of trees burning, I imagine a strikingly fervent layer of blue that stays close to the ground. I want to dive into this color, to zing sideways along its silent raging, to know that feeling of something going.

5. But I must admit, I am scared of this fire. I have been twisting my hands around the idea of evacuating for the past three hours. The smoke pushes me on. When does one know it is time to leave, to stop waiting, and to start praying?

6. “Prayer is meditation with words.” Marya Hornbacher says in her book Waiting.

7. So I write, which is my own type of meditation with words, a prayer perhaps. And so I wait. Wait for the fire, wait for more smoke, wait to receive emails that will possibly change the trajectory of my life. Publications, jobs, updates on the fire. The blue continues to rage.

8. My mother texts me to tell me that the wind is pushing the fire away from me. This is not what I smell, not what I see, not what I feel as the wind pushes into me.

9. I would like to think that the concept of waiting is not the same as feeling something ominous seep into the air. That we do not just wait for the bad things, or for the things that will suddenly change our lives. But that waiting is a continual process, one that makes us consider where and who we are in the now. This is what Hornbacher says in her book, that waiting is a life-long process. I wonder at how long I will be able to wait in order to fully settle in with this thought.

10. I wait for the fire to get closer, wait for my writing to ignite into something more, uncontained.

11. This is not about fire, per se, but the way we wait for it to threaten, the way the smoke teases, then terrorizes the blue sky of air. My grandmother warms me about smoking, tells me that one ash can start a fire. I flick my sleeve of ashes off of the deck and watch it separate as it flutters to the gravel ground. Nothing starts with this, but it is the beginning of getting closer to the end of my cigarette when I will have to find something else to do with my time.

12. About the threatening. As where we have no control over this nature, cannot know which way the wind will blow. I can prepare to stay. I can prepare to leave. Either way I am getting ready for something to or to not happen to me. I would like to think there is a constant in here, though I am unsure of what it is.

13. I think the fires are decreasing as I realize that men (and most likely in these small Colorado mountain towns it is men and not women) have started to contain them, to harness the wind into a stand-still, to press their waters deep into the blue raging. Perhaps I am saddened by this eventual end, by the way the fire, the blue, my writing will in time fitter out.

14. I am not good at this waiting. The blue continues to rage inside of me, leaving me wanting the color of orange, to ignite me away from this waiting.

15. The sun burns yellow now, a white almost. Where the shadows have regained their black, and the only blue around is that of the stubborn southern sky that is still uninhabited by smoke.

16. The town was snowing ashes this afternoon. Outside the restaurant where I work, I saw the white flakes smashing into the ground. We are twenty-five miles away from the fire, though the cook says as the crow flies it is a mere fifteen miles. At home, I see a large crow expand her wings, her body gliding towards my porch. She is here to check in with me, to tell me about the smoke, to nod her head at me in recognition that this may become her new home.

17. What it is I am impatiently waiting for: to hear back from an agent on whether or not she likes my words, my collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body. And the minutes tick by, and the emails slowly drip into my inbox. Non from her. The background scene of my email is of mountains waiting patiently, their Buddha-esque bodies trying to teach me something.

18. I am waiting for my anti-anxiety medication to kick in, which perhaps is not the lesson.

19. In Bluets, Nelson says, ‎"...this is why I write all day, even when the work feels arduous, [it] never feels to me like 'a hard day's work.' Often it feels more like balancing two sides of an equation—occasionally quite satisfying, but essentially a hard and passing rain. It, too, kills the time."

20. I wrote an essay about boredom a few weeks ago, wrote something to try and fill my time while I waited for life to happen. The essay bored me when I re-read it last night. As where the words contained no purpose, did not ignite the page, and, like boredom, dragged their feet across my skull. I would like to now apologize to the journals of which I submitted it to.

21. We are in a drought. And the orange has picked up its own rage. And I have stopped checking the news, knowing that I will sense, will smell when it is time to leave.

22. I have now been smoking for sixteen years, and did not know until this morning, curtsey of the cigarette pack, that cigarettes contain carbon monoxide. I knew about the elements of rat poisoning, which for some reason never made me want to quit. But I am an anti-pollutionist, and am now bothered by what it is I exhale into the air. And the mountains are still burning, and I watch with fascination as I light up another smoke.

23. Waiting is Hornbacher's book about atheism, spirituality, and the 12-step recovery program. How to kick an addiction by letting go of the fallacy of control, by settling into the moment and try not to steer the culminating seconds in your direction. The world will turn without my input, she says. How time passes as I wait for this thought to course through me, to know that I am powerless over these obsessions, over what others will say about my words. But will learning how to wait fill the spaces left open, left sore, left unknowing? I look at my cigarettes in disgust, but continue to smoke them with nothing else to do.

24. I leave my email open in case something comes in. I am constantly checking it, constantly waiting for my life to change in some direction, the wind of someone else's decisions to blow me elsewhere. The feel of the blue to fully explode into its orange.

25. Perhaps this too is about boredom. The fascination with the fire now gone as it consumes mountains other than the one on which I am sitting, living. Perhaps the fire has become bored with itself, has lost that initial spark of imagination when it first conceived of all it could consume. Perhaps it is full, now wants to die.

26. That of which we have no control over, must let go of. And in its absence, something waits, something rages. The sense of the color blue, perhaps, smoldering. Or will it pick back up and continue to grow?

27. It is the next morning, and over night the fires expanded to consume 500 acres.

28. Even the cowboys knew the word I could not remember to place my lips around yesterday. Plume. There are plumes of smoke. Which makes me think of plums and William Carlos Williams. This is just to say this is not a poem, but I realize now that the words cowboys speak are poetry. Plume, farrier, Clydesdale. The words twirl in my head, majestically slip out. The definitions of these words may not be as tantalizing—cloud, horse shoe-er, big horse—but the sounds of them slide into my mind, unfurl their beauty into my blood.

29. I have never read cowboy poetry, though I am curious about it now.

30. How the cowboys keep their lips closed, to only say what is necessary. To let slip out those lyrical texts. What it is they say between a pause and a story. The silence, in a way, is its own stanza.

31. To wait and watch the world growl around me. The sense of blue between the caesuras. But it's a quiet waiting, silent until it finally becomes one that explodes into my eyes. As where the cowboys cautiously create this space between their lines of the poetry.

32. Cowboy poetry: “Come along, boys, and listen to my tale / I'll tell you of my trouble on the old Chisholm trail. / Coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya, youpy ya, / Coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya. / I started up the trail October twenty-third, / I started up the trail with the 2-U herd. / Oh, a ten-dollar hoss and a forty-dollar saddle, — / And I'm goin' to punchin' Texas cattle...”

33. I actually knew this poem before I looked up the phrase “cowboy poetry” online. Though I do not know what a “2-U herd” is. But there is something heard in that phrase that says the cowboy knows his stuff, that drudging along the Chisholm trail with the 2-U herd is quite an endeavor, something worth etching down in lines of poetry, something significant with which to fill the lines, the time.

34. Further more about the smoke: it has become a soft haze this morning, even though the news reports I have again started to check, as there is nothing to check in my inbox, say an increase in acreage is burning. 1,000 acres now. But I do not see an increase in smoke. Perhaps the skies have over-powered the smoke, the blue having subtle-ized the plumes' burning desire to be, to show.

35. More about this morning: I ran 10.5 miles in the mountains. I could not see any smoke when I woke up, so I smoked my morning cigarette watching the blue sky and gathered my energy for the run. While I was running, my mother called me to give me fire updates, and said you better not be running right now. She worries about smoke entering into my lungs. I ran because I needed to feel my legs stretch out onto this mountain landscape before it escaped, before it was possibly consumed by flames. I felt an urge raging inside of me, a flicker of blue energy needing to just go, to zing along a trajectory. By the end of the run, my exhaling lungs had extinguished my energy.

36. Later, at a coffee shop, I continue to check the news and to check my email. Sucking down a medium sized americano in a mere collection of minutes, my eyes wake, spike up to the blue sky. But there is nothing more to report, nothing that can fuel my fizzling blue. It has been a week since I first emailed a potential agent, a week spent cuddling with my anti-anxiety medication and waiting for the world to further roll.

37. The waiting is not lifting. Though the smoke is again. It sways as the fire decides which way to go. And in its space is a wondering if the winds will change their direction towards me, if my email will suddenly be pluming with responses, if I will have something to do with the now. Which way will the fire go?

38. Maggie Nelson, more from Bluets: “Why is the sky blue? —A fair enough question, and one I have learned the answer to several times. Yet every time I try to explain it to someone or remember it to myself, it eludes me. Now I like to remember the question alone, as it reminds me that my mind is essentially a sieve, that I am mortal.”

39. My mind forgets to remember that this is about the journey, not the conclusion. An AA phrase: “I am responsible for the effort, not the outcome.” I look at this phrase in order to inform my thoughts on writing. I can ignite the writing, but I cannot tell the wind to blow the erupting fire of my text towards publication. I can remember these phrases about efforts and outcomes, but they siphon right through me, the answers funneling downward from the open space of my mind, into the blank space underneath my unknowing toes. I wiggle them to get the blood to reach that far down, to get the meaning of journeying to course throughout my body whole. But what is left is a hole, is a waiting for the waiting to end, to outcome itself towards me. The acreage of possible responses to burst into blue flames.

40. In this prayer of writing as I meditate, wait with my words, I have lost my track of thoughts. In this space of which I feel directionless, I hope the reader will understand, will follow through with a re-reading and explain to me why the pressing of the wait gains power in my flesh, consumes the air of my impatience, why my flesh furls inside, wants to crawl away from the feeling of not knowing. All that I have sieves through me and into you, into your understanding of me, for I am nothing but mortal, a being impatient for its eventual end.

41. I still do not know how the fire started, though some report it may be from men shooting guns at a propane tank. There is more wondering to do about the human race here, more considerations about what it is we do in order to stave off boredom, to fill our time. The cowboys write poetry, the hopefully soon-to-be published writers check their email obsessively. The alcoholics drink (though in this small mountain town they are called regulars), and I continue to smoke my cigarette, to look at what the sky now inhabits—its plumey self.

42. Forty-two has always been my lucky number, and so I will end here, not wanting to break the chain of luck, to endanger my hopeful belief that something positively ominous will seep out of this waiting.

Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women's Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, Revolution House, Spittoon, and Make/shift among many others. She is currently working on a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body. You can read more about her here:

COMMENT        HOME       BLOG


More Nonfiction

with author

Colleen Corcoran

Chelsey Clammor

Alia Volz



By accessing this site, you accept these Terms and Conditions.
Copyright © 2010-2012 ™ — All rights reserved