Day 47: Plague and Pestilence

Shower Thoughts: Vehicles today can surf the web, link to your phone, stream music and videos, etc.. but they still can’t perform a simple database lookup to tell you what the check engine light is on for.

My breakfast: strong coffee with coconut creamer, bagel, two hard-boiled eggs with my NEW favorite spice Tajin, which is chili peppers, sea salt and lime. What’s on your plate?

Good morning.  How ya’ doing today?  Are you up with the birds like me? If so imagine the two of us clinking our coffee cups together in a toast for a good day. *cheers*  Although there are many thoughts racing around my mind this morning, I’m just not too sure what to write about. It’s SO much–there are SO many topics.

The way I feel this morning reminds me of what my doctor said when he was mentally preparing me for the birth of my first child 30 years ago. He said something like, “As you know from the childbirth and newborn book I gave you the cervix will expand to 10 cm gradually.  The body will slowly open and prepare the way for the baby to exit the body.  Labor pains are just that—pain.  However, at the peak of labor, when the head and shoulders exit, that is the maximum expansion, alright.  Now, when that happens, the skin, muscles, and other tissue are SO stressed and at their limit, the nerves stop sending pain signals and basically the mother feels no pain.  Now, isn’t that something to look forward to?”  Sounds perfect.  Thanks, doc.  Men say this because they can’t possibly imagine a watermelon exiting their body from ANY hole, much less one that was made specifically for that purpose.  I know he was trying to be encouraging but, well, whatever.

Yesterday I had a write out!  I met with a friend on her front porch for a mask-wearing, 6 feet apart sitting, write out.  She has a cute classic home over in the Sunnyland Neighborhood.  Builders back in the early and mid-1900s understood the value of a good front porch—they are the original SOCIAL PLATFORM.  Our activity feels like we transported back to perhaps the 1950s, waving at neighbors as they walked by, shouting at another asking if they want some tomatoes cages, stuff like that.  This neighborhood is fortunate to be within walking distance of a great grocery store, bus lines, and parks.  In Bellingham, we are allowed to walk outside without citation but advised to not travel too far or too much or with too many people. This is to help reduce the chances of accidents in an effort to keep the hospital free from preventable causes.  In addition to friendly foot traffic, my friend also has many bird visitors.  She throws out some saltines to a crow she recognizes and then says to me “LOOK! He’s going to burying it up in that houses roof gutter”, and he does.

Later she offers me some sun tea she made.  I accept…and then there is another sign that the times are not themselves.  The freshly poured glass of tea is placed on the table. I wait for her to sit down, and then I stand to retrieve it.  It is possibly too dangerous, too rude, or hostile to be close enough to HAND someone something with an unloved hand.  Are we two ladies enjoying sun tea on a fine May afternoon, or are we masked rebels toying with death?

 

Here is an old poem I found in my notebook.  Think I’ll play with it a bit more.

The Salting Room
or Watching Cooking Shows Home Sick with the Flu (April 2019)
by Shannon Laws

The butcher knows if the pig was happy

red cow parmesan from a free-range life tastes better
solid and liquid
curds and whey
the Salting Room
20 months- sweet and rich
30 months- amino acids start
40 months- salty-sweet bitter

mother sits at the chair
closest to the kitchen
Fat transforms in the pan
in the oven, in the crock

we laugh and cry cutting onions with friends
I keep my miso to two or three years
hidden and pressed

Roll the dough until
it resists your thumb.
Debone and roll to a
long round roast.

Salt the meat
give it time
###

Here is my current mood expressed in a meme.  Enjoy your day my friendly bot.  -S

Poem: Four Minus Three

 

 

photo credit: Photography by Magda Indigo

 

Four Minus Three

By Shannon P. Laws

 

The sanctuary of four tulips
in a heavy glass jar
atop the round dining table
bathe in afternoon sun

Church is found in
the smallest folded places
Between petals
Between panes

A god does not determine
who lives or dies
It is the science of fate
The seat you sit in at three a.m.
when a moose moves out from the brush

Three bleed-out inside a crumpled-ball of car

while one

if asked by any nurse or doctor

could tell you
what the family
ate for dinner
yesterday

 

Poem: Arroyo Creek

Arroyo Creek Park, Sept 2018, photo credit, Shannon Laws

Arroyo Creek

by Shannon P. Laws

 

The death berries are still
The holly berries are hidden
The blackberries I grab by the handful
Bunches unprotected by spiders
not yet eaten by robins

Deeper I travel into this old growth grove
Lay my body down at these roots
of Lady Cedar, she accepts it
Forest floor fingers unknit my soul
Gulliver it down to the creek
I let them
take
me

 

 

##

Poem: Broken Branch

Fall by street panda, photo credit- BuzzFeed

 

Broken Branch

by Shannon P. Laws

 

There is a moment
in most lives when
that old dog proves useless
the rhododendron branch cannot
hold the weight and we fall
The first fall in many years

When was the last time I fell
A gopher hole in the grassy field
A twisted root at Arroyo Creek
A frozen puddle near the store

This time
my foot
my balance
my judgment
failed

It will not happen again

but it will

Three times after 70
and they lock you up

A body slaps the Earth
gravity reminds it where it’s from
A glimpse of the end of the skin’s journey
destine humbleturned desire to return to sand

If I wait long enough
I will soon feed the roots
that tripped me

 

 

 

Poem: The Field

winterberries
The Common Snowberry (Death Berry) , Symphoricarpos albus

The Field

Bushes of death-berries near the bus stop begged me to take their picture last week. Branches whip their winter fruit, heavy at the end, as proud as a child holding summer’s vanilla cone. Proud they are plump, ready for the eating, stiff sticks shake nervous in the morning fog—

Remember us, this field of us!

Poking out in clusters, brillo-pad raisined blackberries sleep alongside winter’s bleached fruit.  The field is a young girl’s hair needing a wash and comb.

A week later the corner is stamped mud-brown
a chocolate square cake decorated with a yellow back-hoe.

I missed the pulls and yanks at the knots,
the discovery of a chrome bumper, a smashed
burn barrel and two pickle buckets.

When did this happen?
I never got to say goodbye.

 

~by SPL

Poem: Anything Else

deathof socrates alcestis
The Death of Socrates 1787 Oil on canvas, 98 x 133 cm Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

 

Anything Else

-Shannon P. Laws

 

It flakes off my shoulder when I bend down

Black trails my movement

Dark spots in the corner of my eye

let me know it’s still there

A reminder of the charcoal thread

that ties me to my past

whisps of whispers from

that one night long ago

 

The hurt bleeds out

over the decades

dribbles into a bucket

deeper than my lifetime will hold

A pain oozes out of me

weeps down the bark of me

black like sap

 

Poem: Deaths Dip

darkshadows jd
Johnny Depp coming out of his “Death Dip” , Dark Shadows 2012

Death’s Dip or Confession of a Mattress

FREE mattress. A queen size pillow top

took it home, laid it in the frame

First night—I rolled into a dip

a body shaped dip

on the left side

 

a person taller than me, wider than me

created a dip that I roll into

a bedridden, sickly person

left a death dip

 

No problem, I think, I’ll just sleep on the right

every night to even things out

 

yet, every morning I wake in the dip

My bed, now a metaphorical display

divides my psyche down the middle

The dip is comfortable, soft, form fitting

It feels like a hug in my lonely bed.

 

It is as comfortable as my father’s depression,

a heavy-known feeling of failure.

 

My familiar spins tires set on park

 

This I confess to you:

I sleep with death

and I like it

 

 -SPL

#

 

Poem: Nightly Spirit

 

spirit 300

Tickle my ear at three in the morning
Brush the bottom of my foot with mist

See the dreams I carry that do not rhyme
Remember the fallen that rest in the corner of the eye
A phase-shift out of reach, stuck in the web of mind

Take the tack off the desk
Move the keys under the couch
Roll the pencil out of reach

But never talk to me as one who is dead,
My breath’s Bank of Days still holds cash

Poem: Tempest

Miranda, the Tempest, 1916
by John William Waterhouse
This morning the sky changed. Wind from a different
direction cast surprise upon and stirred up curiosity
Trees above sway to the song of Fall, make for a lovely dance to sing to
Below, wind combs threw underbrush, grabs the recently fallen,
blows them into whirlwinds
Northern Gale, breathe on me, release from me dead and dying parts
Twirl them up to the sky, lay them on the ground
Churn them into soil; all that death is good for
Compost for a garden I have yet to harvest
***
-Shannon Laws
Re mix of the 2011 poem “Winter Prayer”

Star Berries

Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  The day before New Year’s 2013 my eyes are everywhere but the stars.  I feel like I’m in the gutter.  I am one of an estimated two million in the U.S. whose emergency unemployment benefits ended December 29th.  Now, when I was laid off from my job last March, the company gave us an official 30 days notice.  My government, however, gave folks two weeks’ notice, two weeks before Christmas, that the payments may end 12/29/12*.  On New Year Night, millions waited to see what the Congress and Senate would pull out of their ass on the eleventh hour.  It was time for a walk.

I walked down the hill toward the creek, but on this day I yearned for a new adventure.  Turning right I headed for Whatcom Falls, round trip journey is just under four miles.  The wind was light that morning and carried the scent of snow from the foothills twenty miles east.  Overcast clouds, bounce white light around the barren branches in the woods of deciduous trees that hug the walk; the bark black-wet and silent.  Deciduous means “Falling off at maturity”.  I think on this for a while.  Perhaps maturity means accepting the seasonal changes life rotates through our world, even the ugly ones.
Crows caw at Seagulls as the two families compete for stale bread thrown into the road.  The first hill rises up ahead of me; my mouth opens to take in more air as the legs dig into the incline.  Passing an old white Ford truck, parked on the curb, a waft of “dirty engine” blows across the nose.  I take the history into the lungs and carry it with me across Woburn Street.  The trails trick me as they wind aroundpass a brook that I could hear, but not see.  Oh you little spell spinner, I think.
Suddenly I find myself at the foot of a cemetery hill facing 60 or so tombstones.  This cemetery is known for its weeping angels and walking ghosts.  In the mind’s eye the dead are ghosting about enjoying the day; some sitting on their stones, resting, others socializing.  My presence startles them; their heads turn to look at what has stumbled in.  For a moment we stare at each other; the living are among the dead!  Respectfully I bow and greet them a “Good morning” then leave quickly.  Conversations with ghosts only encourage them to follow you.  I have enough ghosts.
Turning around to correct my path I cross over that tricky stream.  Winter’s debris has it covered in a blanket of “hush”, but water is only silenced by Jack’s frozen finger.
Cell phone photo of my Snowberry bushes

Pass a large Cedar, and the black chain link fence that divides the Jewish dead from Christian, there are Snowberry bushes.  Hanging heavy with their poisonous fruit on the thinnest of twigs, they droop over in a random pattern like stars.  The branches so thin, if you squint your eyes just so, the wood disappears and all you see are white dots.  In a local Native tongue the name for these berries translates to “food of the dead”,  How appropriate for these then to row up against the Bayview Cemetery fence.

Being a child of the Northwest I know not to eat white berries.  The berries do not scare me.  Today, on this day, I see them as stars.  The trail is empty as I stand surrounded by a Snowberry universe.  For a moment I float.  I am an astronaut floating outside my craft.  Floating like a leaf that navigates gently down a river, unaware of its direction or the dangers of rapids.  The leaf floats where the water takes it, the water goes where all water goes, home to the ocean.  I float.
I float…
Common Snowberry (S. albus) is an important winter food source for quail, pheasant, and grouse, but is considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as other alkaloids. Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children. 
Interesting information here regarding NW plants:
http://www.americanprogress.org
*Under the most recent extension, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, emergency unemployment benefits will expire at the end of 2012. If Congress does not act to extend benefits, more than 2 million Americans will lose federal unemployment insurance just after Christmas with another 900,000 estimated to lose their benefits in the first three months of 2013.