Prose poem: Smells Like Winning

Photo by Takemaru Hirai on Unsplash

In the winter of 2018-19, I walked by a cemetery and crematorium to catch my bus.  Dragging my knuckles home after an unsatisfying day, uphill no less, pass the body markers of others, and the rush of evening traffic. —These are moments poets DREAM of!  I am thankful for the times we walk among metaphors.

With a 45 minute wait for the bus, I recorded memory of my migration “Smells Like Winning” in the form of what I call Spoken Free Verse. It is a writing exercise; the challenge is to compose a prose poem in a ONE take recording.  Below is the transcript, the audio file deleted.  In October 2018, while recovering from a bike accident I posted some of the free verse transcripts and the original audio.  The poem “Smells Like Winning” seemed too dark and I was hesitant to share that side of me at the time.  Please, don’t be frightened, remember some pungent truths are blown away simply by the scent of a cinnamon candle.

Smells like winning

It’s seven minutes after five and I’m sitting at the 540 bus stop on Woburn.  Its a loud, busy road connecting Alabama and Lakeway. The UPS and Post Office trucks clank by with chains on to help maneuver around the back roads that still have ice and snow. I have a 45 minutes wait for the next bus. The sun is setting somewhere behind me. Dusk officially starts.

Looking down I notice the heel of the black winter hose gave out today, a Thursday.  It couldn’t hold itself together for another day. I imagine it was that hard strut from the fax machine that did it in.  Friday marks the end of my first week; a new job with a new bus schedule. 

If I wanted to, I could walk up the hill past the cemetery and crematorium to the bus on Lakeway, takes 26 minutes.  If I did want to walk there it shaves 15 minutes off my commute home. But I don’t want to. Yesterday I did that, walked up the hill to Lakeway.  Hiked up that sidewalk with bumpy ice-slush and old snow beside the rushing cars set out like hunting dogs that haven’t eaten in weeks seeking a sniff of a fox. 

Yesterday I walked up the hill.  I noticed forgotten gravestones deep into the tall trees where the lawnmower can’t reach.  The stones are small, dark, gray, crumbling. A noisy creek snakes around the bottom of a ravine.  I stop to listen. The crematorium comes into view by the stoplight. Stagnant cold air holds a blue haze over the building, but there is no smell of wood burning.  The contemporary style building sits on the busy corner of Lakeway and Woburn. It took me a while to remember what they do there. I keep walking faithfully towards my bus stop thinking about the smoke as I get closer.  As I walked into and under it, around the traffic light, hairpin to the left 

My eyes weep in the wind.
I worked hard this week.
Rebuilding my life.
Breathing hard up this steep hill.
Taking in the smoke of the ones who lived before
filling my lungs with foreign moments

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2018 World Peace Poets

You’re invited…

 

“You can sign-up to read or sing your words on peace at worldpeacepoets@gmail.com   …We are very excited about this year’s line-up of international readers, but there’s still lots of room. Please send us an e-mail or call me so we can give you a time. I will send out the schedule on October 1, 2016.”  -Carla Shafer

Sign up today!

Sharing Poetry at Kendall Elementary

Janet Oakley (l) shares some CCC history before Shannon Laws (r) starts her Introduction to Poetry presentation for the 4th-grade class at Kendall Elementary, Kendall, WA March 8, 2018

On March 8th historian and award-winning fiction author, Janet Oakley and I visited Kendall Elementary to share an introduction to poetry and encourage 4th graders to write their own poetry.

This project is inspired by the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps statue dedication.  On June 16, 2018, at the Glacier Ranger Station built by CCC workers, the statue will be dedicated.  Janet Oakley is working with Mike Impero and me to coordinate community events for all ages in celebration of the statue dedication. (Read more about the Corps below)

The CCC boys printed their own newspaper called “The Bulldozer”.  Copies of the paper still exist.  After Janet discovered that the boys wrote many poems for the newspaper, she recruited me to help spur a poetry contest with the local 4th-grade class.  The contest went well.  The Kendall kids are creative!  Select poems are on display at the ranger station and the Kendall Library.  Winners will be read at the dedication ceremony on June 16th.  Kendall is about 10 miles from Glacier and some of the students are direct descendants of CCC workers who stayed in Whatcom Country after the CCC was dissolved.

Yesterday Janet came over to my home and shared some of the Thank You notes from Kendall.  What a warm surprise!  I am so thankful for the experience!  These cards made my day.

“Raise your hand if you’ve written a poem.”
“Dear Ms. Laws and Ms. Oakley, Thank you for teaching poetry. Poetry it can be funny or sad. Mostly I like the rhymes. Still, thank you for coming to our school. Now I really like poetry instead of hating it. Thank you for coming. sincerely Tristian”
“Dear Mrs. Laws, Thank you for the time to write poetry. I have been writing ever since. Thank you for coming.” *wink*

 

Dear Ms. Laws and Ms. Oakley, the slide-show was great and thank you for teaching us poetry. Here is one of the poems I made. Mrs. Grats. Mrs. Grats had sixty rats, each one ate ninety-nine cats. I had a longer one but I forget it. This one isn’t my best when I made it I didn’t have that much time. from Caleb
Dear Ms. Laws and Ms. Oakley, Ms. Laws Thank you for teaching us poetry and spending your time with us. It was fun you having us. Ms. Oakley thank you for teaching us about the boys that made most of the buildings and the statue that is going to be at the ranger station because if you wouldn’t tell me I wouldn’t know, so, thank you.


About the Civilian Conservation Corps Statue

On June 12, 1933, a group of forty-three men from the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived in Shuksan in the Mount Baker National Forest. A week later they were joined by thirty enrollees from Illinois. By July 12, Company 2915 was at full complement of 200 men. During the summer and fall, the company worked on the construction of truck trails on Hannegan Pass and Twin Lakes, felled snags, and strung telephone lines. On November 2, the company moved to their permanent site on the Mount Baker Highway between Maple Falls and Glacier. Over the years, Company 2915 would build the Douglas Fir and Silver Fir campgrounds, the Glacier Ranger Station, the Austin Warming Hut, fire outlooks and hundreds of roads and trails

This June 16, 2018, nearly eighty-five years after the first group of CCC boys arrived at Camp Glacier, a statue will be erected at the Glacier Ranger Station to honor the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work. Though Mount Baker District is used heavily in winter and summer, few today know the history of the CCCs in our area. This statue will serve to tell their story.

A Little History Lesson

The Civilian Conservation Corps came out of the desperate days of the Great Depression. In 1933, only 30% of the population had jobs, mostly halftime. Banks, farms and businesses failed.  With 25% of all young men ages 16 to 30 unemployed, serious social problems arose. To meet this national crisis, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed the Emergency Conservation Act, soon known as the CCC. FDR was inaugurated on March 3, 1933. He proposed the bill on March 21. Both houses passed it on March 28. FDR signed it March 31.

Whatcom County’s first call for young men to sign up was in mid-April. A qualifying family had to be on the welfare rolls, their son between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old. The family received an allotment of twenty-five dollars a month. The enrollee would receive five dollars a month, but they were also fed, given shelter and soon training in a variety of things –from radio, auto mechanics to packing horses and setting up phone lines. Some finished their high school certificate.

The CCC Worker Statue

Sometime in the early 1970s, former CCC boys formed alumni chapters to get together, share their stories and support the preservation of their work in state and national. Today, most of the chapters are closed as members have passed away. The concept of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC Worker Statue program was developed by the former Chapter #129 of Grayling, Michigan in 1995. Program coordinator Rev. William Fraser had the dream to have a statue in every state. The CCC Legacy, a national non-profit group, took on the task recently and now owns the CCC statue mold.

The Glacier statue will be created from a standard mold, and look just like this one from Montana.

For the past year, author and historian Janet Oakley and Mike Impero, North Fork historian worked to get a CCC worker statue for the Glacier Ranger Station. Oakley grew up on stories of the CCCs and wrote a novel, Tree Soldier, set in the Glacier area. For two years, she was a Washington Humanities speaker, going around the state talking about the CCC’s impact on the state’s treasured parks and soil conservation. Mike Impero has written books about the Glacier area. He has a personal reason for the statue: his father was one of the first CCC boys to serve at Camp Glacier. Last month CCC Legacy signed with the Mount Baker National Forest to allow such a statue. The statue will be the second in Washington State and seventy-second in the nation.

On June 16th at the Glacier Ranger Station built by CCC workers, the statue will be dedicated.  Janet Oakley is working with Mike Impero and local poet Shannon P. Laws to coordinate community events for all ages in celebration of the statue dedication.

A 4th grade Kendall poetry contest in March through April.  Poems will be displayed at the Kendall Library and at the Glacier Station.  On April 28th Janet and Mike will give a presentation at Village Books.  All the events are free and open to the public.  -press release

2018 Poem Booth Kickstarter

2018 Poem Booth Kickstarter
December 6th – January 20th

Christen Mattix admires the Poem Booth, March 2017

 

Team Poem Booth announces a 2018 Kickstarter to raise money for the continued support of the Poem Booth located on Forest and Holly at the downtown Community Food Co-op.   The Poem Booth Kickstarter is LIVE December 6th through January 20th. We had an amazing 2017 launch for the Poem Booth and are looking forward to 2018!

The 2018 campaign offers many enticing awards.  Please visit our Kickstarter page to learn more and donate today.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1485995559/poem-booth-2018

Jory Mickelson, Christen Mattix, Summer Starr at the December 2017 poem reveal

 

 First Year Highlights

A complete remodel of the phone booth that transformed an eyesore into a communal treasure, live poetry readings at the Poem Booth, a beautiful and informative website about the Poem Booth project (poembooth.weebly.com), 75 fantastic poetry contributions from local talent, a chapbook compilation of the year’s poetry selections, a poetry reading event at Bellingham Food Co-op, Saturday, 6-7:30 p.m., January 13th , publicity in Bellingham Alive, Cascadia Weekly, Whatcom Talk, Community Food Co-op News and Take 5.

This new year we are looking to expand the art involved in the Poem Booth and are exploring ways for the community to get involved in creating the look of the booth. 

The “Poem Booth 2017” chapbook front cover available at the Community Food Co-op for $5/or donation

Second Year Goals  

Enlist and support local artists in transforming the Poem Booth with their artistic vision, provide a unique and fresh venue for local poets while honoring their talents through awards and publicity, continue to provide a democratic and free encounter with art for pedestrians. Funds will be used for our poetry chapbook, printing costs, paint, cleaning tools, and maintenance supplies. We are also exploring creating a new Poem Booth on Holly Street.

Your support for this Kickstarter will give us the funds to have more creative license over how the poem booth is refurbished in the new year.

We hope you will join us in getting community poetry to the streets in 2018.

 

Poem Booth team members for 2018 are Christen Mattix, Summer Starr, Shannon P. Laws, Sheila Sondik and Jory Mickelson.

Sheila Sondik reads her poem at the September 2017 reveal on Forest Street
The booth a year ago, 2016, before the transformation

 

The Poem Booth, June 2017