The Fire Escape :: A Freewrite


My mouth is a fire escape.
The words coming out
don’t care that they are naked.
There is something burning in there.

– Andrea Gibson

My mind always goes back to the apartment on Carroll Street in Brooklyn.

Long before cell phones, before I started smoking again, I’d sit on that back fire escape.

What did I do there? Write? Or just sit?

I find fire escapes everywhere I go. I like perching on them. I like climbing them illegally and looking out over whatever town or city I’m in.

I like the anonymity and the iron and metal and how they are at once solid and transparent, designed to rescue yet always inviting me to look down through the slats, the cracks, between the lines.

Today, I woke up in Vicki’s guest room. It was raining. No way, she said yesterday when I asked. They’d fine you like that, she said, snapping her fingers.

And so I complied, stretching under the white sheet, listening to the rain and a mockingbird and the garbage trucks outside, glad for the extra few hours of sleep after I willed myself not to get up at 6:30am.

The fire escape. The fire. Escape. Sit like your hair is on fire goes the meditation instruction. Write like your hair is on fire goes the writing instruction. But live like your life is on fire when it’s not? No.

To escape is sometimes the only option. Sometimes survival, to save your own life.

But when you can’t see all the way through the smoke and mirrors or your own mind, better to stay. To wait. To move slowly into the day. To look through the screen and cut yourself some slack and feel the gift of balance as you rise, place one foot then the other on the hardwood, walk out into the kitchen where she says, your latte is in the fridge.

My heart is on fire, burning away the debris of doubt and fear and overreaching. I come back to less, the less that is far more than enough. I do not want to escape my life or ask any more questions for a while.


This was my ten-minute freewrite yesterday, for my Get Your Muse On group’s Wednesday prompt.

Seeing writers publish work that they wrote or started as freewrites in several of my groups always makes my heart flutter. Check out these recent beautiful posts by Madhuri Blaylock, Christa GallopoulosErica Sternin, and Lisa Sadikman.

Whether you blog, publish, journal, or haven’t written in years (or ever), I would love to practice with you. My next two-week group will take place July 20-31. If you’re curious about writing from a prompt for ten minutes a day in an encouraging and intimate group, sign up here.

3 thoughts on “The Fire Escape :: A Freewrite

  1. Pamela says:

    Your words always resonate so deeply with me. I have been thinking of you and all you and Mani are going through and I am glad you found a night of respite and escape. The part about looking through the screen and walking slowly made my heart break a little more open.

    I am partial to stoops and not fire escapes as I am afraid of heights, but I love that feeling, elbows on knees looking out at a city or a bay or at a mailbox. Thank you as always for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Katrina Kenison says:

    Jena, Your words here mean all the more as I think about what you and Mani have just been through. I particularly love the last line: “I do not want to escape my life or ask any more questions for a while.” Your words make me think of Eliot:
    “Teach us to care. Teach us not to care. Teach us to sit still.” There’s a beauty in that kind of sitting, heart open to whatever is, as it is.

    Liked by 1 person


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