The Box

Note: What follows is actually the writing down of a work that is meant to be spoken/heard. The music that occurs near the end is an integral part of the story; the piece is Pachelbel’s Canon in D-Major.

Note: Sinsemilla (“without seeds”) is a form of marijuana. Only the female plants are allowed to flower; males are uprooted from the area and for a mile upwind. The female, unpollinated, sends out longer and longer branches of highly resinous flowers. (High Times touted it as “sex-starved marijuana”, but there are other ways of looking at it.) The sinsemilla flowers thus obtained make a powerful, creative and lucid smoke. Two sources mention a tradition in Mexico that in earlier times sinsemilla was grown by women only.

Note: “Tender Buttons” is the title of a work by Gertrude Stein.



When Trudy visited the West Coast in the spring of 1984 (This is a different 1984 ,I want it understood.), when Trudy stepped from the train in Eugene, Alice already knew that sometime during her friend’s visit here they would explore together that new women’s store.

As it was, they went on Thursday, and, oddly, it was snowing. Along the branches, white puffs of late snow balanced between the cherry blooms, shimm’ring, like the intermixing of tutus,

blossom-colored, and white,

as if two different waltzes were dancing there

at once, and, strangely, melding.

…Alice looked from the window to the bottle in her hand. This store was like a good museum, too much to absorb all at once …. The tape recorders, for instance, produced by a women’s collective. And the strange names of some of the models: “Tape Recorder On The Edge Of Time”, for one. The woman who sold them once taught math; now she taught their care, repair, and their creative use. Her shop, with its cameras, tapes, and such, filled what had once been the living room of this old house. The house, once a respectable turn-of-the-century wooden fantasy, was metamorphosing again, become now a store, a women’s place they called



Across the hall and through another doorway were windchimes, flowers, crystals of cut glass, a pile of old lace tablecloths. This, in what had once been some woman’s dining room; you could see, her plate rail was still there.

In the windowed kitchen were the inevitable plants in pots. But these, grown by the nurseries at ELF, were special plants, each with some known virtue…

The knowledge of plants, the knowledge of plants discovered once by women called midwives, women called witches, women called shamena, the knowledge of plants was being recovered now, through study, and through meditation. (For this was already in the beginnings of the Remembering.)

The women who tended nurseries at ELF, it seems, ate only fruit and nuts. They rose early and began their work with meditation. They worked, mostly, in silence, musing, and listening for what the plants would tell them.

So here, in the kitchen, were the plants they grew, and here, beside them, the ELF series of Plant Meditations: three books, so far, offered as “works of fantasy”. The meditations were, it said, received in the form of stories: dreams in the greenhouse, sometimes; sometimes there were visions as if from other lives. Other revelations as to the virtues of a certain plant came with the appearance of a fairy, or of a being called the “deva” of the plant.  Most rarely there were characterizations of the plant seen as if from inside, as if one were conscious inside the plant itself, knowing the slow rhythms of the light.

What was not said, in these books, or anywhere, was that the information received in these meditation sessions was always carefully tried out until the women were sure they had understood it correctly. This was not said, for then all this could be called “selling patent medicines”. It was not said. They printed their “fantasies”, they nourished their plants, and they repaid the living this gave them with listening, and with giving thanks unto their plants.

It was not the ELF nurseries, however, who were responsible for Oregon’s famous woman-grown sinsemilla. It was rather in the remote, high places of the state that this marijuana, legal, finally, for three years now, was grown.


In the mountains women slept

all summer in the gardens,

breathing in the white dust of the flowers,

slept a sleep       not quite like sleeping,

knew the changes of the moon,

saw the stars and planets moving

out beyond the resinous flowers.

Days they walked among their plants,

always searching out the male ones.

If a woman found a male plant,

she would meditate before it,

reaching out unto its spirit,

speaking thusly:

“Forgive me. I must remove you.

It’s in the service of consciousness.”

And then she would pull it gently,

bear it to the drying shed;

from its fibres would be woven

the rough, golden rope.

And as the woman walked her rounds,

she greeted gladly each female she saw,

called to her by name. There was

Olivia, and there beside her taller Redwood stood,

both now enjoying their third year of life,

and giving still their copious boughs of flowers.

Redwood and Olivia were matriarchs by now,

legends, and with granddaughters already.


The plants themselves weren’t fertilized, of course.

But from each, cuttings had been taken,

grown beside their elder sister,

and then carried, with much singing,

downwind, down into the valley.

There they bloomed among the others

growing there among the male plants

for the bearing of the seed.

For some male plants there had been,

who, when reached in meditation,

had, in answer, spoken thusly:

“Do not take me. By consciousness I conjure,

in the name of love I tell you, in the plant

that I am being is the seed of the Seed.”

So to ridgetops under stars

and nights among the women

came the luminous new generations.


This woman-grown sinsemilla was very…yin. With it, one seemed to notice a still place in oneself, a still place into which the world curved and resonated. “Elsa” (moon in Cancer) was a case in point. An ounceful of her flowers sold for twenty dollars in the shop upstairs. Or, if you were of a different frame of mind, there was “Laughing Grass”, two dollars, and ”Looking-Grass” as well. One basketful of ounces had for name a haiku. And one other, sinsemilla again, was the long-remembered “Doña Juana” (moon Aquarius).

…The pipes! Another story for another time.

Yes, it was too much to absorb all at once. Already, Alice could see Trudy’s eyes glazing as she leafed through her sixth bin of women’s music. Good, then she would not explore this corner today.

Trudy regained her seat by the fire, groping for the tea, her eyes on the record jacket she held. Alice returned into the afternoon light. The bottle of oil was warming in her hands. In its belly, minute bits of lavender drifted slowly downward through the oil. Around the neck of the bottle Alice noticed a ribbon, and, fastened there, a label, a drawing of the labial, labyrinthine petals of a flower. Beneath the flower, she read the words “Sapphoflower Oil”.


In the end, however, she chose, not that, but a box, a rounded, a soft and tufted box. It was a box of, a box full of, of a secret she saved

till that same evening, when

after going home in the snow to tea, and then

to bed to make love,       and after talking instead,

voicing fears and doubts,              discussing,          reassuring,

and after, then, tears

and after, after all, remembering touching

and after English muffins after that

and after a joint, and a cigarette,

smoked, respectively, smoked, reflectively,

smoked in bed,                 the music

changed to something like Bach.

[Begin Pachelbel]


Something like Bach, it was. But it was not Bach,

it was… “box”, she remembered.

Alice kissed between Trudy’s eyebrows.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

She drew the box from hiding.    Soft, it was,

a rounded, pillowed box, covered with a silken stuff.

Alice put aside the embroidered lid,

and lifted out a scant handful of beads,

soft pearls, essense of althea, and heal-all

in opalescent jell,                                             fairy bubbles,

pearly baubles,                 warming in her hand

in the palm of a lover’s hand, of a lover’s hand

rocking in the lips of her lover’s secret mouth.

Soft jell ball domes          bubbling                              between

the two woman surfaces,             palm and cunt,

reminding some, then, of Danaë,

and of the golden rain

and then of golden rivulets

twining, turning

rivulets, themselves, then, melting, now,

melting, into healing balm, sweetly smelling,

and in ever such good taste.


But short this melting is,

and fleet the tongue must be

to taste its nectar now,

for now the melting, itself, is melting,

and all is gone to scent or air,

or rather, it had seemed, vanished into ether


leaving, then, this startled flesh

this the hand, and this

the hidden mouth and source

wakened                             naked    cell to cell.


On the floor the      candlelight

sparkled on the silken lid

and on the name embroidered there,

“Tender Buttons” it read.