Au jus

“A French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef on a “French roll” or baguette. It is usually served plain but a variation is to top with Swiss cheese, onions, and a dipping container of beef broth au jus) produced from the cooking process.” -Wikipedia

I post many first and second drafts of my poetry on this site. The illusion of “public posting” develops a type of creative wall for me. Provides just enough pressure to help me work out the kinks.

Today I would like to share will you some raw stuff. I’m a story telling poet. Most times my poems are generated from a real life experience or observation then I attempt to carve something tangible from the block of emotional marble, if you will. I’m guessing most creatives, do not know exactly where inspiration comes from or where it goes once it’s released, but this marble metaphor is what I’m going with for now. However, the backdrop for this poem is not what most marble is used for, a god in crisis or an ancient emperor. Instead it is a four hour visit with my mom at her cabin, watching her cook a simple roast beef lunch. Ordinary and extraordinary all at the same time. Love does that.

So, I had an amazing experience and I thought I should do something with this. This is a poem, a poem I would like to share. Driving home I used my cars hands-free system to record to my phone. It’s a type of “moment capturing” that results in RAW free form poetry, or spoken free verse.

Above is the recording, below is the recording transcribed. The finish product may end up in one of my books some day. Hope you enjoy this little insight into my process. -Best wishes always, Shannon


Au jus
by Shannon Laws

she asked me if I would like some Au Jus
Ya that sounds good I haven’t had that in a while
what kind of cheese would you like on it?
and for some reason I said Jarlsberg
she toasted it up on a bun
and cut it on a long diagonal
easy for dipping

at the cabin, we didn’t have the proper bowl for the au jus
and she said well we have too small of containers
or we have too large
shall we go with too large or too small?
and we both said too large

She toasted the bread just perfectly
crispy crust on the outside
and soft in the middle
and we talked

We talked as I was raised to talk
to talk around the dining table
about common things
and happy things
things that will not
disrupt digestion
and I wondered if it was because she was
raised in Minnesota
or because she grew up on a farm
or perhaps because she didnt get
her first television set until she was 18
but she is such a good conversationalist
I appreciate that about her
and I realized it is a true art form
I saw it for the art form that it is
conversation
good conversation
over good food
it does something to you
it heals the soul
it is good
good times
good people

it did even more than that
it reminded me how much we all need each other
and how much I needed her
her in her late 70’s
me in my early 50’s
We don’t have much time with each other
maybe 20 years who knows

I thought about my friends whose mothers
have already passed
and they all have said
I wish I could just call her up on the phone
sometimes and talk
and here I am at a table
in a cabin
with my mother
having an au jus sandwich

we talked
we shared
we laughed
we had a wonderful visit

a four-hour lunch is a good time
When I left she said
Oh I’m going to take a look at your new car
and I opened it up for her
she looked inside
and it made me feel better about my choice

and I want to tell you
confess on paper here today
no, it’s not a confession
It’s a question…
Have you ever seen your mother pray
have you ever looked at her from across the room
when she knew you weren’t looking at her
and you saw her lips move
and a subtle hand gesture
maybe she looks up to heaven or
off in the distance at nothing in particular
and her lips move slightly
and there’s a smile on her face
or something and
she just kind of glows for a moment
and you know she is praying
you don’t know the words exactly
but somehow you sense the love from her

I started my car
left and drove off
she glowed

##

Pit Stop

 

birds-ocean-shores
Sandpipers at Ocean Shores

Pit Stop

Early morning air whistles past the plant on the dresser, kicks at a scarf hanging on my bed post, then finds the place in my mind holding childhood trinkets.  I surprise myself, reacting in song.  I sing an old folk song handled and dusted by time, passed down generation to generation.  An oil cloth recalls the brass plate, treasured like a trophy discovered in the attic, reveals the words “Oh My Darling Clementine.”

Wearing boxes without topses

Wind and song send me away.  I’m sitting in the back of my dad’s big green truck, singing with family; brother, cousins, Aunt Jo and mom.  Camping gear stacked strategically around us and beneath. Weather report checked in the morning Seattle Times, large blue tarps folded in squares under the red cooler.  The cooler is full of four days worth of food including butter, milk, cheddar, baloney, and beer, of course, beer.

I-5 smog blows through the broken floorboard near the tailgate, the only bare spot on the floor; it’s a leak to the outside world.  It looks like a tiger bite or a claw ripped at the wood.  I want to stuff a kitchen towel in it to seal the room.  Our only source of light comes from the long rectangular canopy windows.  Classic layout, men in the cab, women, and children in the covered bed with the other commodities. We sing to pass the time, the men listen to the radio.

It’s 1977, summer vacation, and mom has cut off our worn school jeans to mid-thigh. All our church clothes left quietly resting in the dressers at home. Anything ripped or stained is allowed to go to the beach

At the half-way point, we stop to refuel.

I do not know how I must have looked to the clerk at the gas station as I walked up to the counter with a handful of wrinkled dollars.  Did I resemble a poor latch-key kid abandoned by working parents or perhaps a tourist who lost their luggage, forced to purchase a salvation army wardrobe?  The back of my long black hair teased out from a short nap. Maybe she saw many kids buying Bubblicious and a blue slurpee that warm week in June.  She saw so many a day that she didn’t really see me, I blended in with the neighborhood kids, whatever that neighborhood was called, wherever we were.

ocean-shores-scott-sean-shannon
Enjoying the cold Washington State waves

The night air brings it back to me.  I don’t know how.  Does memory ride the current like evergreen pollen, stains the skin with a fine yellow dusting?  Like that afternoon the San Juan woods seduced me to take the wrong turn, bending me towards a grove of pine in heat?

I travel a bit…

At the end of my childhood block is a field of sweet grass. Pull a large stalk, slowly, straight up, out of its hinge and you have a treat, chew the white sweet end for its nectar. One bite is all you get per blade. Take the flat half, place between your thumbs and blow.  We sat all afternoon chewing on sweet grass and whistling.  Why should I remember that?  That quiet moment found in a field, in South King County.

A few trees still stand there, ask them, they might know.

Remember.  Forget.  Remember again.

More wind. I am 10, I hear it all again. That vacation one summer…

The forest behind me, the constant waves crashing just over the dunes, the violent sound of a bag of ice thrown to the ground to break it up, the repeated clink of a male metal pump tapping rapidly along the female rim of a full tank.

“Kids, time to go!” An adult performs the last chore, drains the melted water pressed behind a flimsy white stopper at the cooler’s base. A solid stream of water hits the dusty oil ground with a poof!  Water skates to the lowest point, rainbows wiggle along the ground.  It’s pretty.  A fresh bag of broken ice opened, poured over the perishables.

The cooler, our snacks, ourselves tucked back into Big Green for the last leg of the trip.

ocean-shores-gray
A gray Ocean Shores day