Spoken Free Verse: Birds Do Not Fly

photo credit: Shannon Laws, Bellingham Bay, August 2017

As I recover from a concussion ( please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more ) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year.  Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note.  Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me.  Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance.  Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.

The second offering is a moment of humble thought, recorded July 31, 2017.  Nature and man-made transportation seem to torture me as I take a break from work at the shore of Squalicum Beach Park.  Of course, science tells us exactly how bids and planes fly, regardless, I’m dumbfounded taking in their magnificence.  The sneaky looking two-person boat crew weaving around the inlet with a quiet motor at sunset, hang something to the pier perched on the opposite side of the inlet is an understandable event, although I do not know their intentions.

I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem.  I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ukdHKxn_s6ORBPyR-BtZMxryz-E7Afax

Birds Do Not Fly

By Shannon Laws

I don’t know how birds fly
I sit at the water’s edge
I watch them
land onto the water
float on the water
I watch them easily hop around
I don’t know how they fly

I have no idea

Just flapping of the wings,
tucking back the tail and feet
nose pointed out
The motion must be repetitive in their mind
without any thought
Except maybe an instinct when the air changes
when the wind gusts from the side
or the heat vent comes up from behind them up
and lifts them suddenly, ten twenty feet in the air
It’s probably no surprise anymore
if they even feel surprise

and I watch them
and I still just don’t know how they do it

The seagulls near the airport are just as much a mystery
as the airplane themselves
How do we get inside a tube and just fly
We just sit still and move hundreds of miles an hour
I don’t understand it

A boat goes by with a motor attached
to the back a little dingy
It’s expecting some sort of package
It’s hanging from a pier log
It could be drugs
maybe a crab pot, illegal
Maybe they just found a cool looking barnacle
or some muscles thought they’d take a chance

That I understand
I understand a boat
and I understand a train

there’s a track
there’s water
there’s a motor

but flying
I don’t understand it

I don’t understand why the sun doesn’t just fall on us
or why we don’t get sucked into it
why were not drawn to the heat of it
and the moon…
it just sits there and stares at me
just half of it anyways
the other half winks

It’s eight o clock at night and the moon is up
it’s the last day of July
there’s no snow on the mountains

I’m OK with not knowing everything

 

 

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Poem: Break

A stormy view of Bellingham Bay during a work break

Break

by Shannon P. Laws

 

Today the sea is rough

A short dark log bobs offshore

It makes little effort to head in

Against its indifference the waves

push it towards the rocky beach

 

Swallows divebomb my head

Mistaking my daydream for a

gnat or annoying mosquito

 

Weeds are allowed to mature

on this bank, no one tends them

To the tallest thistle, I remind you

once—when I was young and barefoot

you pricked me.  You were small

green and leafy, welcoming curious flesh

Now you are a proud purple war club

glorious crowns mark your victories 

 

The log is almost to shore

and my break is over

 

The door to outside

Poem: Mermaid Rosary

Mermaid by Jerichau-Baumann

 

Mermaid Rosary

by Shannon Laws

 

Our Lady of Wayward Currents
finds her home off the highway
A curious thing to find
a candle flame so deep in the bay

One o’clock sun sets it off
fanned by the hulls of sailor’s vessels

Some call it holy to carry a
love for the ocean
tattooed on your arm
I carry mine in a pocket
with loose change

 

 

Spawning

Spawning Coho Salmon are one of the most attractive fish.  This is a BIG fish with an average length of 28 inches, occasionally reaching 36 pounds.  This fish is currently “in season” at the processing plants on the docks of Bellingham Bay.  I know this first hand because I am a fish flinger.

Coho’s Looking For Love

The Coho pre-spawning colors are silver with some black dots on the back.  When the hormones activate and send the fish into “spawn mode”, it transforms into a monster fish! Vibrant shades of pink, burgundy, neon green and black grow over the silver scales.  The males mouth jets out, teeth blaring like an old lady’s stubborn poodle.  The females grow eggs, 2500-3000, on either side of their organs in sacks that start just under the jaw and run down the length of their bodies.  These fish are ready to get it ON!

BAM! Who’s Your Daddy?

There is something beautiful about watching this fish fly by me on the line.  Not sure why. The males swoosh by nose first.  Those teeth will destroy my rubber glove if I’m not careful.  A hole in the glove means a cold finger till break time.  Shoot-slime and ice cold blood will absorb into the cotton of my under-glove. Seems that Dr. Hyde of a fish wants to take a bite out of something, even after death.

Spawning Coho: Male – top, Female – bottom

When the shoot is full, and the fish are stopped up in front of me, a sea of clear dead eyes stare upward looking for a fight.  After the line ahead opens up I stretch an arm out and push them along to the left, forward, to be filleted. Their challenge ignored.

 

 

MY JOB
Eggs Photo credit: NWFSC and NOAA by Jen-McIntyre

This is my first week here.  My job is egg removal.  As the males zip past, needing no attention except to keep it moving, the females have their bellies opened by the dorsal-fin-cutter person, then slid into the egg gutter lane in front of me.  The average Coho holds 2500 eggs.  All the eggs are collected into a gutter that drains into a bucket.  The buckets are filled quickly enough to have a dedicated  “bucket guy” whose only job is to bring us empty buckets and dump the full ones into a large holding crate.

To remove the eggs from the fish I reach my hand into the body and rake ‘em out.  If I’m lucky the eggs will still be in the thin membrane.  With two gentle tugs at the top of the sack I can pull out all the eggs with two moves. (see photo)  Otherwise you just rake and rake with your fingers until you get them all.  But you really can’t get them all.

eggs in the membrane

The fish slide in front of me all day on a long steel table covered in this cosmic mix of melting ice, fish slime and blood, fish sperm and loose eggs.  Everything runs smoothly if all the fish are pointed nose first.  Sometimes a fish turns sideways and stumps them all up like a scene from Keystone Cops.

 

 

I AM A WILD FISH

We stand, all day in a cooler, geared up with gloves, long plastic sleeve protectors, rubber boots, a body length stiff plastic apron, long underwear under the clothes and a hat for the head.  In this place I am not cute.  There is no need for me to comb my hair; it is under a hat all day.  Make-up is unnecessary and perfume is not strong enough to rise above the stench of fish.  All day a grey spotted sea gull laughs at me from the back gate, as it stands on a crate outside hoping for some fish to drop.

Picture 236
My apron back on it’s nail at the end of the day

There is still much to learn about this operation and my part to play in it.   I expect all next week I will stay on the egg gutter.  Haven’t asked too many questions, nor received any feedback, but the boss did ask if I was coming back.  The season ends in January.  Wondering if I can make it that long.  I took this job because they hired me right away.  After the lay off in September I needed work fast.

Coho smelling their way home

Since I returned to my state of birth, five years ago, I have been laid off three times.  While my professional life suffers, my volunteer work is prospering.  In the last two years I started hosting a successful poetry group, producing radio shows on a community station, and my first poetry book was published, February 13′. Like the Coho I have mutated to spawn, out of a primal urge to survive and pass on my traits.

Slowly I step on this human ladder… I climb, and climb and climb, with hopes of reaching the final destination: to plant my eggs, my ideas, my hopes.  Will good fortune find them at the bottom of the river nestled among the rocks and multiply my efforts?  I hope so.  Spawning takes the life right out of ya.

 

 Isn’t there a little fish is all of us?

 

 

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