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i.  THE INKWELL     

Growing up in Lutheran parochial schools in LA’s San Fernando Valley, I was taught the accepted historical accounts of Martin Luther's life and ministry. At the time, I had no clue that Luther was sanitized by the institutional church, and the liturgical rituals made dry and repetitious. Yet, I do remember a story told to me by my teacher A.H. Stelhorn, who had recently visited the historical Lutheran sites in East Germany. Mr. Stelhorn had seen the study in which Luther apparently threw an inkwell at the Devil. The stain on the wall where the inkwell burst and splattered had been picked away over the years by pilgrims—all wanting a relic of Luther. They had bored a huge hole in the wall, which looked like a gaping wound. (I have always wanted a piece of that damn wall.) Only later was I to learn that it may not have been “ink” that Luther threw at Satan, but an altogether different substance of a more excremental nature.

Although my attendance in the church waned as I reached adulthood, my interest in Luther, the man, grew. I slowly uncovered stories that were suppressed by the church and never taught. Luther became my radical hero. It all began when I read one line by the Reformer that hit me like a thunderbolt: “The Holy Spirit gave me this knowledge on the privy in the tower.” I then realized that Martin Luther received his enlightenment—which triggered the Protestant Reformation—while seated on the toilet! Luther was ruminating on Romans 1:17 “in the sewer,” that is while he was on the crapper. There he formed cornerstone of the Reformation of sola fide (Latin: by faith alone) that was more precisely “given to me by the Holy Spirit on this cloaca in the tower.” The term cloaca, a Latin euphemism for toilet, later came to mean, “to fall into sin.”

In that same privy, Luther also reports being attacked by an apparition of the Devil “showing him his posterior” and letting loose a thunderous emanation, the foul odor of which lasted for days on end. Against the Devil’s fiery darts, Luther's speedy counterattack was ingenious. He employed the same weapon used by Satan: shit. (This may be the first account of biochemical warfare.) In our battle against evil, Luther writes, the Devil will "stink and stab us with his dung. In apparitions, the Devil often appears as a huge, dark demonic ape (looking remarkably similar to reports of Bigfoot) covered with thick, dirty hair and whose presence is accompanied by a nauseating odor. It has been noted that in zoos apes often have the disgusting habit of throwing their dung at bystanders. According to folklore, the Devil cannot be more “completely frustrated” than by the use of human dung in the battle against his evil works.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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