Mea Maxima Culpa, Bitches: An Interview with the Muse

While I wouldn’t lay that one on Father Henry in the Confessional over the Easter Week, I will tell you that the Muse has been whispering this statement in my ear for awhile. I’ve shut her down on many occasions when she starts spewing irreverent shit, but this time I decided to ask her what she meant. She agreed to an interview, and I caught her the other day as she bellied up to a mess of piss clams and some beer.

Me: Why piss clams? Little Necks are better.

Muse: What do you know?

Me: Uh…

Muse: Seriously, tell me, what do you know?

Me: About piss clams? They are mushier than Little Necks, and you should wash them off in broth before you eat them.

Muse: I consider myself a purist. I don’t wash them.

Me: EW?

Muse: EW? Coming from a girl who eats all the yellow stuff and guts in her steamed crabs? Pu-lease: I heard what you told that guy you caught cracking open and cleaning the crabs in that bushel he had just cooked. I believe you used the word, “sacrilege.”

Me: Touché.

Muse: Merci beaucoup. Now can we get on with this conversation? I don’t think you called me down here to gripe about my food. So what do you know?

Me: It’s what I don’t know that’s got me interrupting your dinner. That whole “Mea Maxima Culpa, Bitches!” thing has me stumped.

Muse: Aw, come on. It’s all about the freedom you attain by taking responsibility your own excrement. Like in that co-parenting book you read called, No One’s the Bitch, by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine …I believe they had a chapter titled “Owning Your Shit” imploring step parents and bio parents to admit their fears and issues so the relationships within the blended family structure can improve.

Me: I did own my jank within our family structure. Not terribly helpful to anyone but me, the stepmom–sources say that, contrary to beliefs held by Marine et al., I am the bitch of the universeAll that aside, what does owning my shit have to do with my art?

Muse: Everything. One can’t have light without darkness. One can’t have sweetness without the shit smell.

Me: So?

Muse: You can’t connect with your writing and with other people unless you have a firm grip on all facets of your being. If you don’t confront the most dangerous parts of yourself, you’ll bind your art.

Me: Constipated writing?

Muse: Exactly. As we have said, one can smell stoved up rants from miles away.

Me: So does that mean I have to write those writhing confessional pieces and vomit rage and angst all over the page?

Muse: For the love of God, no. Please. You have notebooks of that garbage hidden in the attic. I mean you have to come clean with yourself. Are you angry? Do you lie to others? To yourself? Are you a slacker? Are you judgmental? Small? Obnoxious? Homicidal?

Me: I avoid killing people.

Muse: Good for you—would you like a cookie? To paraphrase Rita Mae Brown in her writers’ manual: an artist must acknowledge the murderous parts of him/herself before he/she can create a dynamic and believable character truly capable of killing.

Me: On what page did you find that?

Muse: How would I know? I’m up to my elbows in piss clams. I’m not about to soil my copy of Starting From Scratch for a page number. You go find out.

Me: I’m too much of a slackass. Besides, my characters aren’t murderers.

Muse: Why not? Kill off some people every now and then. Committing homicide with the pen vents frustration. Don’t you have some people you wouldn’t mind offing?

Me: No comment.

Muse: Pussy.

Me: Look, I admitted to being a slack ass. What more do you want?

Muse: Confess your control issues. When you swallow your pride and admit how little power you really have over your events in your life right now and how much you hate that fact, then the experience of powerlessness will stop haunting you and, instead, flesh out some aspect of your art.


Muse: You’re quiet.

Me: I’m trying to swallow my pride. It’s stuck in my throat.

Muse: Well, good. You have infinite amounts of pride, so you’d better start swallowing, Honey. It’s getting in your way, big time.

Me: I thought pride was healthy?

Muse: Not when it keeps you from asking for help. Not when you get so caught up in trying to control and ameliorate situations way beyond your firing range that you ruminate day and night over the unfixable like some sort of sick cow.

Me: I thought helping people was decent.

Muse: Their shit is their responsibility, not yours.  Let ‘em go.

Me: I have.

Muse: Good. That’s why you’re finally writing instead of whining about how much you want to write.  Mea Maxima Culpa: you don’t have the energy, the impact, the contacts, or the wherewithal to control all your relationships, your family, your family’s health, or your job. You cannot fix all these things on your own; Sister, you are not in control. And that pisses you off beyond belief.

Me: Feed me some bile this morning, why don’t you?

Muse: Drink up. Let everyone else own their own shit. Stop trying to shield them from it. Or, as in some other cases, stop trying to jam it down their throats.

Me: Why would anyone reading this care about my shit?

Muse: They don’t. Hopefully, you will inspire them to confess their own shit to themselves. If you run from your darkness, it will chase you like bean farts from here to eternity. Everyone else will smell it, except you. You’ll be wondering why in the world everyone you meet has their nose all wrinkled up. Meanwhile, there’s a steaming poop pile behind you that you don’t even see. Have the sense to notice the crap, examine the color. Why are these turds following you? Interview the pile.

Me: Oh, my GOD!!! Are you my shit?????

Muse: You might consider me one of your cow pies, yes.

Me: You don’t look like shit.

Muse: That’s my point!!! Once you get to know your shit, it’s not all that nasty. It stops stinking. What is crap but the delicious yellow stuff in the belly of a mess of hard crabs? After all, what is poop, but fertilizer? Your piles of dung morph into something vegetative. Art. Writing. Song. Own it, Baby. Then You. Are. Free.

Me: Wow. Confession really is good for the soul.

Muse: Mea Maxima Culpa, Bitches!

Me: Yeah. Now I get it.


As an artist of any sort, it’s imperative that we create our masterpieces from what we know. If you are a parent or caregiver to anyone under, I don’t know, thirty-five, then poop has been paramount in your experience in some form. Now before y’all hit that Lil’ red X at the top of y’all’s screenie-poos on this one, let me explain. I just Googled “poop art,” and good Lord, let me tell you: Venus de Milo? Made out of Panda crap? Seriously? Another artist pooped in a can in 1961, sealed it, and it sold for £124,000 at a Sotheby’s auction. Turds appear to have endless sales possibilities; in this house, I believe we may have cornered the market.

As a writer, I do take the whole “write about what you know” thing seriously. It would be far-fetched for me to write about nano-particles or e-trading or bridge building.  I don’t know, ahem, shit about any of that. However, I have shoveled enough caca in the past ten years to declare myself an expert. Before that, I had horses. I can tell you what kind of hay they’ve been eating based on the color and texture of a fresh steaming pile.

In fact, Lil’ K refused to potty train, and had to be punished, bribed, sang to, read to, and otherwise cajoled in all manner of speaking to deposit her waste into any typical receptacle other than a diaper or the floor. Enter Lil’ P. on the scene last year. Upon his birth, I want y’all to know, I received the title, “Head Ass Wiper in Charge” ’round this house. I may not know shit about much, but I know, well, shit.

If poop inspires you in any way, by all means, ahem, run with it. Consider the medium, though. For instance, the time Lil’ K. deposited a log big enough to be a keel for an aircraft carrier in the tub would be best captured in a sarcastic story such as this rather than in oils. Incidently, during this same crappy event,  Lil ‘ P. was present as he had just finished his bath. He had to be left undiapered on his frog towel in the floor while I tried to dispose of this ginormous coprolite in the tub. P. was indeed fascinated as I transferred the package to the toilet in three parts with a sand shovel I found fortuitously crammed behind the unused potty chair. His big blue eyes carefully tracked my ever move. While I was plunging the toilet because the thing wouldn’t go down, Lil’ P.’s face lit up with smiles and rainbows as he then proceeded to spray down the bathroom doorframe, the wall, and the sink. He was cackling so hard to the rhythm of the sucking plunger that he rolled over for what I believe may have been his first time.

“Don’t say that Mama,” admonished Lil K. as I let fly strings of expletives normally reserved for porn stars and pirates. There was nothing else to do but laugh maniacally, once I unclogged the toilet. I mean, what do you do for awhile after all that?

Again, let me reiterate that potty catastrophes such as these should probably be reserved for the written or spoken word. There are a few exceptions, though, like the photograph I took of Big T. practicing his saxophone on the toilet when he was in the sixth grade. He was known to disappear into the crapper for long periods of time, generally completing homework, music practice, and perhaps his own rendition of War and Peace on the throne. Once I found him in there eating spaghetti during a rowdy family gathering.

“I just have to get away from all these…people,” he said, expertly balancing his tray on his lap and twirling his spaghetti on his fork. He had a point. I considered sitting on the side of the tub and joining him for awhile, but I didn’t want to screw up his vibe.

Another exception to Jenn’s Poop Immortalization Rule is music. If you can write about crap, you can sure sing about it, too. I happen to own a Cd from a wonderful folk band called Molasses Creek with a poop song on it. This band, which hails from Ocracoke Island, NC, and was featured on The Prairie Home Companion, sang about one of their daughters having to do a Number 2 on the road to the Cedar Island Ferry. The family then hits road construction and misses the last ferry of the night from mainland NC to Ocracoke, due to this ill-timed dump. The song is HI.LAR.I.OUS. This same daughter now has a Cd of her own, so does not seem to be scarred in any way from having her bowels immortalized in a song.

So I guess the point of this is that there is no end to artistic inspiration if you are willing to go out on a, um, log. So, the appropriately titled challenge Quit Farting Around and Ripple the Universe, comes into play here.

Quit Farting Around and Ripple the Universe Challenge #2.

Get off your toilets, or go sit on them if you need some peace, and find inspiration in the weird or gross around your house. Write, paint, sing, or do something with the strange nastiness around your house. If your kids produced the ick, don’t worry. They will survive a lifetime of your embarrassing renditions of their childhood moments. Big T. just got into the honor society at his college, no doubt developing his brilliance in all the communal bathrooms along the way.


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