Spiritualized Life

Written by Jeremy Ray Jewell

Photo: Cherry Walker Jewell

They were naming places in Florida after my family until they started naming my family after places in Florida. My mother was born in 1954 in a hospital on the St. John’s River at the end of Cherry Street. She was named Cherry. She was an extra in a movie once, but I can’t remember the name of it. She is gone, but the street goes on… from the river to College Street, at least. And the old Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway, CSX’s Sanford Subdivision… the tracks which make Riverside the island it is.

Then you can turn around and walk it again. College Street: My brother once lived two houses from the corner. I’d walked there from Willowbranch Park, following my mother’s namesake route. Next intersection is Post and Cherry, the ONA church where I had to jump out of a moving truck one night as a child when the stranger driving started rubbing my leg… Could have been the end of the Jeremy show! But it wasn’t. I dropped my wallet with my social security card inside, and later found an unpaid JEA account in Murray Hill had been opened in my name. Cherry Street was a dead mother all along. My name lived on, with mixed results.

Forbes Street is still full of vegetation, Selma is still treeless. Remington: I may have known a girl on this corner, and I may have knocked on her door ten years later just to see if she’d be there. That was before I understood how decades work. It takes a long time to crack that code, and once you do there’s no use in it. Downing: hot summer day. Olga: shade. Sydney: the dugout, sitting with someone I can’t remember but cherished. This walk is really taking too long, and my mother is nowhere to be seen.

The library: printing school papers. Park: now we’re going places. Herschel: ancient places. Oak: brick places, paved brick and streetcar places. Riverside Avenue Christian Church, the Allman Brothers house, and a photo I took in the grass when visiting from Boston with my sleeves rolled up. Remember? St. John’s: bulk cargo in front of a plantation house. Get the boat ready for me. Cherry Street Park: the broken dock – wait until she comes… or walk the whole damn thing again. Pace it, make a home out of it. A deathly deed. Or make a deed that is not death. Move on.

I was born in Riverside Hospital in 1986… that’s the Publix by Memorial Park. I was born by the deli, perhaps. Oscar Mayer, not Boar’s Head. Maybe in the putrid backside of the Papa John’s. I was born with Charles Adrian Pillars’ Spiritualized Life in my eyes. It’s the globe of swirling world war dead at the foot of the angel.

Pillars said: “In this surging mass of waters, I shaped human figures, all striving to rise above this flood, struggling for mere existence. Last, surmounting these swirling waters, with their human freight, I placed the winged figure of Youth, representative of spiritual life, the spirit of these boys which was the spirit of victory. Immortality attained not through death, but deeds; not a victory of brute force, but of spirit. This figure of Youth Sacrificed wears his crown of laurels won. He holds aloft an olive branch, the emblem of peace.”

Youth sacrificed, laurels won. Deeds rather than death. Emblem of peace. Even looking at that statue today I get the urge to dig them all a grave so deep it reaches to China. But that’s not how graves work. I also remember asking my mom about it. Was it grandaddy’s world war? No, another, earlier one. How many had there been? She couldn’t say. She didn’t even tell me I was born looking at the damn thing, and I’d have never figured it out yet.

Portrait of Pellicer

Written by Jeremy Ray Jewell

Photo: “‘A Glimpse of one of the Turnbull Canals’, Van de Sande Studio, New Smyrna, Fla.”, from Dr. Andrew Turnbull and the New Smyrna Colony of Florida by Carita Doggett. Drew Press, 1919. Internet Archive & PALMM Florida Heritage Collection.

Pellicer left his home on the Mediterranean island of Minorca in the spring of 1768 as an indentured servant. He boarded a ship in a fleet of eight sailing to the newly acquired British possession of East Florida. Five years before, several thousand of that exotic land’s former occupants up and decided to permanently sojourn in Cuba and the newly-Spanish Louisiana, foolishly leaving their forts and garrisons unguarded against the onslaught of British capital investment. Among those lured to that tropical paradise by the great advertising ruckus which the new stakeholders created was one Scotsman by the name of Dr. Andrew Turnbull. 

After acquiring the necessary land, Dr. Turnbull set out to acquire the necessary Protestants to settle it. Fortunately for him, the keepers of the Anglican faith had unilaterally declared the Greek Orthodox faith to be, in fact, Protestant. Between this fact and Ottoman despotism, or perhaps between his Anatolia-born Greek wife and sheer expediency and businesslike calculation, Turnbull set upon his plan. He delegated out the clearing of land and other essentials and set forth to lead around five hundred faithful Hellenic Christians out of the tyranny of Turkish cotton, silk and indigo production and into the contractual freedom of British cotton, silk and indigo production. 

The first change in Turnbull’s plan came when he stopped at the port of Mahon on British Minorca, where he caught wind of and decided to collect and contract over a hundred Tuscan men from Livorno. After depositing this cargo back at Mahon and setting sail for Greece, the Scottish doctor found his recruiting efforts there significantly thwarted by officials of the Sultan. But upon returning to Mahon with less than the expected five hundred colonists, he found that the presence of the young Italian men in the city had added to his party nearly a hundred newlywed women, who arrived from elsewhere on the island. Off-setting this surge of Catholic colonists was the unexpected acquisition of two hundred Greeks from Corsica, thus completing the original number of five hundred. 

Despite this haphazard success, when word of the colonial enterprise spread throughout Minorca (as these things seemed to do), several hundred more Catholics flocked to escape their crop failures and start afresh in the land of Florida. Turnbull and the English governor of Minorca capitulated, and on April 17, 1768, over fourteen hundred colonists – mostly Catholic – set sail under the flag of the Anglican monarch, with two papist priests shoed-in for good measure. Among the passengers was Don Francisco. 

The voyage lasted eighty inhospitable days, with a portion of the Mediterranean passengers finding one or the other of them to be their last. Finally, the colonists sighted land. The long journey was over and having left the familiar sun, rocks, and vines of that ancient marine highway from which they came, they now saw before them the promising land surrounding Mosquito Inlet. It was good on its promise, to the point of malaria. The tangled shoreline of mangroves and swamps was at once impenetrable, teeming and stolid. 

In Turnbull’s absence, there had not been enough food gathered nor housing constructed, and an expected delivery of Africans had shipwrecked, leaving much of the land uncleared and undrained. In the absence of slaves and in the presence of non-British indentured servants, it was not long before the colonist’s indenturedness would begin to wear off under the auspices of the under-worked British slave drivers. With little more than the clothes falling apart on his back, Francisco Pellicer proved his worth as a carpenter, if only by his craft with the sharp, green fans of the palmetto bush from which the colony’s neighborhood of huts was to be built. 

From the scenic slopes of the rocky Mediterranean coasts, with its stacks of stone edifices and politely subdued environs, the altogether differently scenic flat-to-sunken land and illusory sloping scrub was too ridiculous to be Paradise and too absurd to be Hell. Whatever the manipulations the Scotsman may have utilized to compensate for his project’s misfortunes, or whatever may have been the barrier of power or intelligibility between Francisco and his contractual superiors, he could not stop repeating to himself, “It’s too late to turn back now.” Telling himself that made it feel as though it was his own conclusion. 


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“Jubilo Done Pass” Forthcoming Publication

Upcoming short story publication!

My short story “Jubilo Done Pass” will be featured in the forthcoming Footnote #5 from Alternating Current Press.

It’s a Civil War tale set in North Florida based loosely on Heart of Darkness. It speculates on the complacency of the powers that were in both North and South in the construction of the post-war order that saw the re-enshrining of white supremacy and the power of large landowners. Preorder your copy today!


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Hello all,

I would like to thank everyone who has started following me here over the years. “That’s Not Southern Gothic” was born from the back of a semi-truck sleeper cab on America’s highways… Most people didn’t even seem to know I was the one writing it. Most of the works that were once here have been taken down to be circulated elsewhere.

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Jeremy Ray Jewell

Tactile Afterlife

Originally published in Heron Clan VI

I was at the age to guard the way the creek flowed like
it was some penmanship of larger men into the brown Carolina
and since waited on the country road and backwoods bridge

to become the compassionate elder viewing young catastrophes
and stepping panic stricken out into the power line clearing
as into the incisions of the black bear through hickory bark.

Then the dogwood blossoms fell before you knew it,
and with a vomit of flora the pessimism echo was muffled
as only I now recall how one or the other will first die.

Though in that green fury I am elated that it may be me.
The revolutionist’s preference is to explode like spring spores.
To collapse like the winter buck is the blackest rot.

Such interest in the produce of minds, you know, but
Carolina grows and grows again out of the cavities of
unevacuated chests – it may only be so.

Good News Crackles

Originally published in Heron Clan VI

Driving through the Carolina forests late
at night and the radio moves from music with
advice to music with recipes. Then come the
Jesus stations – all 20 or so. One, then
another. Eventually one reaches out to you,
between the trees and through your headlights,
out of the products and pop songs, splitting
apart the comfortable and the beautiful and
the meaningful people like storm clouds overhead,
and it grabs you by the lapels. It’s been

looking for You, has a message for You. It
has a job. For You. An audio exit opens in
the highway and you’re on it. Exit 81.7 FM,
downtown Jerusalem, Edge of Empire, USA. When
it’s all over you keep it like a psalm in the
glove box, unfolding it for a second in the
parking lot before work, or you read it out
loud in the break room. Because Carolina has
some comfortable, beautiful, meaningful, dark
clouds hovering over it. Good news crackles

on the airwaves, and somewhere sometime it’s
got to rip. Prosperity will rain down on the
forests and the forest people will become
woodland titans. Pulled teeth will resprout.
Lost jobs will be found. We might even buy
back the farm. So think the dry bones
on the Carolina highways at night.