This villanelle came to me during my first week at a new job on a cold, dark, foggy February morning. With steel toe boots on and a budgeted $7 for travel and lunch in my jean pocket, I search for the bus stop on Harris to catch the 401 leaving at 6:30 a.m. Last year I temped at SEVEN factories, now I walk towards number eight. The fog is another unknown-known waiting for me.
It felt like the ghosts of Fairhaven were dancing with me as I hiked through the fog, perhaps even poking fun at the site of a person up too early, with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Ghost have no weight. They do not need bus tickets, boots or money. Lazy-ass ghosts.
The overwhelming sense that I was NOT alone in that fog bank, spurred an “Our Father” out of me… and now I have a poem.
This is my first villanelle. Think I’m gonna write another.
Thanks for your visit with me as I travel the crust of the orb,
by Shannon Laws
One block before the dawn, heaven hides the fright
Ghosts match-step with me in curbside play
My breath sends a prayer into the air
I stride into Fairhaven’s ambered light
Behind me stirs a promise for the day
My lips form a poem too loaded to bear
Toward the factory stand steel and might
A slit of red that seeks the bay
My breath sends a prayer into the air
Ancestor songs sing “Run, freeze and fight! Be a footed fish not a whale of clay.” My lips form a poem too loaded to bear
Eyes search each block for tints of light
Seek sticky hope to fix and stay
My breath sends a prayer into the air
Blue ribbon peeks beneath band of night
Black evergreens promise the fog away
My breath sends a prayer into the air
My lips form a poem too loaded to bear
2015 seems like an amplified version of 2014 don’t you think? Except this year we had the added entertainment of an American Presidential race, promotional “stuff” for another Star Wars movie a la Disney, Kim’s booty and the Pope’s world tour to distract us. Finally, sick of the violence and injustice, MORE citizens took to the streets! From Paris, to South Carolina’s Ravenel Bridge to Bellingham Washington, citizens unified in mass against war, terrorism, police violence, and the environment. Round and round we go.
With only a few days left in 2015 it seems the right time to write a Christmas Letter. My mom use to mail an end-of-the-year letter to family and friends, near and far, sharing the highlights of our family’s year. It is in that spirit that I write to you today.
Perhaps you treat these letters like fruit cake. If that’s the case then I leave you here, in the third paragraph, simply wishing you & yours a happy, warm holiday and prosperous new year. Also, it’s important for me to add a BIG Thank You! Thank you for visiting my page and buying SPL poetry.
However, if curiosity is creeping around your ankles, making it’s way up the leg, securing you in your seat for, say, the next five minutes, then I welcome your company. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. You are a “happy personal association” and I welcome your presence.
My Christmas Card movie features the SPL staff at it again. This year we are working as a team to beautify our surroundings, sharing the joy with our neighbors. Living on the 48th parallel our winters are long and dark. The sun sets about 4:30 pm and stays down until 8 in the morning. A string of lights is helpful, happy and welcomed.
Blessings to you and yours & Happy 2016!
~Shannon, Brad, Vince, Robert & Chris.
(Click our photo to watch our home movie)
My Poetic 2015
The year started off in PEACE. On New Years Eve World Peace Poets, Betty, Carla, C.J., Carol and I met at the “Peace Pole” in Fairhaven with another group for peace. We lit candles at dusk, tossed paper crane prayers into the sea, then joined hands in a moment of prayer for the new year.
Later in February all FIVE of the “Peace Sisters” published “Peace Poems, Vol I”. We included an award ceremony with the book launch. There are many people in Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C. who stand for peace and understanding. We wanted to recognize them as “Ambassadors of Peace”
World Peace Poets encourage harmony through words for international writers and promote public readings.
In March my poem “Voice on the Trail” was accepted for a wall display in the Bellingham Repertory Dance Company’s “A Night at the Gallery”
In April I joined in the celebration of “The Bard of Bellingham’s” book launch! Beloved +80 yr old Jim Milstead, a well known poet, (finally) released the much anticipated book of poetry “Collage”. Congrats Jim!
For a second time, it was my (well-protected) pleasure to feature at Western Washington University’s Erotic Poetry Night. Such a fun time!
In May I read at Erica Reed’s Poetry Gallery, representing Village Books Poetry Group. This new, quarterly event allows each of the over 22 poetry groups in the Bellingham area to share for 3-5 minutes. It’s a night of cross-pollination, networking and good words. Erica plans on continuing this event into 2016. Look for it in the community calendars!
June: after an exhilarating experience reading on a street corner for the Bike/Poetry Seattle group Mob Rolls in May, I was hit by lightning! Putting in a call with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, “Poets’ Corner” was born! An exciting new living art display for Art Walk participants. Poets take over a corner, read to the passing masses! Poets’ Corner ran from June-November, co-hosted by Lucas Nydam. It is a fun experiment. Due to the winter weather it is currently on hiatus until April 1, 2016.
Featuring for Everett Poetry Night and Poetry Night in Bellingham within seven days of each other was stimulating to say the least. The audience was warm and accepting, and my books sold! This was my first year featuring for open mics.The change of perspective, audience member to performer, was refreshing. Am I ready for more? I hope so. It’s a great responsibility to feature. The high is amazing and I hope to do it more in 2016.
For July I found myself reaching into new physical and emotional territory. The Lament for the Dead was an 2015 on-line movement about personalizing the victims of police violence. My poem “Wallow in Ashes” was accepted. Also, I returned to my old stomping grounds South King County as a feature poet for Auburn Days. One of my goals for 2015 was to feature outside of Bellingham. I am thankful to Everett and Auburn for letting a circuit-newbie take the stage.
July marked the end of my time at KMRE 102.3 SPARK Radio. I started volunteering with SPARK back in 2011 producing the classic blues show “The Playhouse” that features the blues from 1920-70’s, and occasionally stepping in as an afternoon LIVE DJ, running the “Board of Doom”. Later, in 2013, Jonathan Winter asked me to help him with a show he envisioned where folks that love music share their music story. The New Americana Hour was born! In addition to those two programs I also recorded local poets for an award winning feature called “Poetic Moments”. You can learn more about my radio time at KMRE here. What a wonderful family the Museum of Electrical Invention is! It was hard to say good-bye, but I am thankful to of worked beside some of the northwest’s most influential, giving, and creative characters.
September the Peace Sisters were recognized for their publication and “Read-In” events by Writers International Network . The ceremony was held in Richmond, British Columbia along with recipient poets and artists from India, Mexico, Korea, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. I am moved and very thankful to WIN for this award.
October was an amazing month. October 2015 marked my fifth year in Bellingham. I am touched by the kindness this community has shown me. I wanted to give back and do it the “Bellingham Way” = do it for charity.
I wanted to coordinate a musical album featuring artists from Bellingham and Seattle, but would any band want to be on it? And WHAT charity would be the benefactor? Then, these two questions were answered within a week of each other. Many band members I contacted grew up with music in the home and/or were introduced to music through a school program. These programs cost money. Blue Skies for Children helps low-income, homeless and foster children in Whatcom County with music lessons and musical instrument rentals. The 17 bands that donated songs to this album are “paying it forward” for future musicians. In October “Blue Skies for Bellingham” was released in time for the Blue Skies for Children charity auction.
“This album together with the original cover art by esteemed painter/musician Meghan Yates, are submissions for Blue Skies for Children’s Annual Dinner and Charity Auction. All seventeen bands are from Bellingham or frequent the Bellingham area. All proceeds go to the Our Little Wishes Instrument Loaner and Enrichment Programs. These programs provide local homeless, low-income and foster children ages six to eighteen for music lessons and musical instrument rental to help increase hope and raise self-esteem.”
Also in October World Peace Poets hosted our 3 rd annual “Read-In”. November and December I read at a new hookah bar Cafe Bouzingo, and the first “Noisy Waters” reading at the Mt. Baker Encore Room, and returned to Auburn to feature at the Auburn Arts Association Poetry Open Mic.
Fall 2016 I’ll release my third poetry book “Fallen” and I hope to get more feature gigs on the books. I also have a few secret projects I’m working on–one includes a phone booth, another a hair artist, painter and fifty sets of crunches a day, and a NEW radio program for KVWV, Bellingham. My body, mind and spirit in top form—yep. That’s what I’m looking forward to in ’16.
Thanks for walking with me through this year. (dang that took a long time!) Have I mentioned how THANKFUL I am?
Happy moments. They show up in the most surprising places, such as a window seat Harris Avenue Café in Fairhaven. I’m an inventory taker. Every so often I take a look at my life and take inventory, see how I’m doing in relationship to my goals. The last two years have been disappointing on many fronts. At the same time, however, many personal breakthroughs have accumulated new ground. Navel gazing at its best.
So, I’m treating myself to breakfast. There’s no food in my kitchen and I haven’t eaten since Thursday afternoon. This week I had two successful poetry performances and, well, I’m taking myself out to celebrate. The plate arrives. Eggs Toulouse with smoked salmon, Harris’s special spin on Eggs Benedict. I order with fruit in place of potatoes. Sitting pretty on the plate, red strawberries, green kiwi, yellow pineapple, orange melon sliced and arranged like they want to be painted. My only brush, knife and fork. This is nothing I would make for myself and I don’t mind paying for someone else to put it all together.
The art of eating.
Enjoying the presentation.
Pausing for appreciation.
I seldom eat out. I am thankful.
I have my 16 ounce mocha to my right. It sits there asking to be stirred. I imagine a dark heavy layer of chocolate below the shots and milk. What a beautiful drink. A book I’m three chapters in lays open on the left. Brightly painted tourist in sandals, slacks or khaki shorts and golf visors walk around looking for a nibble. Groups of them walk in all asking for a table “outside in the garden.” I’m inside, sitting in the window. It’s almost nine, the sun is still behind 17th avenue; I’m safe for another two hours.
Breathing in the atmosphere, the happiness almost knocks me over—My God, I’m HAPPY. I’m so freakin’ happy! What a magical place this is.
This table, this view, this town, this moment—right now—just right now. I’ve always dreamed of doing this day in Europe. Now I challenge France to come up with a better day.
Benny’s at dawn!
Whoever’s been praying for me, thank you. This morning a portion of joy has manifest.
Walking along the pier, right at the elbow that bends up towards Fairhaven, I notice a shy heron walking deliberately among the pilings. It’s twin legs and long neck hide the bird as it rests near the jagged grey-brown grain of whole trees, de-barked and weathered. Only when the heron gracefully kissed the water for fish, did I notice it.
Not many others on the pier at 7 in the morning, on a Sunday, in July. I’m thankful for the feeling that I own the place. The tide is low, and mossy rocks air out their backs. One set of rock reminds me of a dragon, resting it’s head in the water, another group looks like an ancient pillar that fell at conquest centuries ago, the segments now broken, as a dotted line.
Eelgrass catches my attention. Bent over in the heavy current, sways gently, little wind to push them both. It looks so soft I want to dive into it. My mother trained us to NOT swim in grassy water; tree branches lurked under there and will snag your clothes to death. This morning, I want to swim in the dangerous grassy water. Will the tips and smooth edges of the blades tickle me? My laughter would echo with the morning birds.
After months of editing and nine test copies the book is out! The dedication reads: To my children who always have a smile, to my writer friends who always have a good word, to the crows who know me and say hello when I walk their wood, to the beams of sunshine that kiss me when no one else is looking, and to my love…” I must of course also thank you, the visitor to this blog. With over ten thousand visitors in the two years I have been blogging and posting my poetry, your feedback and encouragement have basically created a writing monster. Well done!
As fresh as a hot mocha on a rainy day, the majority of poems in “Madrona Grove” have never before been published! Be the first to own a slice of the Northwest as seen through the eyes of this poet.
The book can be easily purchased on line at Village Books (link below) for only $14.95. Village Books is an independent book store located in the historic district of Fairhaven, 1200 11th Street, Bellingham, WA 98225. You can also order a book over the phone at: Tel: (360) 671-2626 / (800) 392-BOOK.
Poetry. Shannon P Laws takes us on a stroll through the mind, heart and the mystery of dreams in her debut collection. Her poems, like a fine picnic laid out on a blanket in the shade of her beloved Madrona, reveal treasures that hide in everyday living. This majestic tree, native to her home on San Juan Island, has a skin like bark, alive to the touch. They act as a sentry on her journey through ancient emotions and primal urges that stir within.
About the Author
Shannon P Laws, born and raised just outside of Seattle WA, is a regular at open mics, sharing poems and excerpts from her work of literary fiction. She has been found at such venues as Chuckanut Sandstone Writers, Village Books Open Mic, Poetry Night, Western Washington University’s Erotic Poetry Night and Poets Across Borders in Canada. Shannon is also the host for the popular Village Books Poetry Group, which meets monthly. In addition she is on the radio hosting two music programs, Classic Blues and New Americana, on KMRE 102.3, SPARK Radio, in downtown Bellingham WA.
Was just informed this weekend that my poem “Housekeeper”(see below) was chosen along with six other poems in a poetry contest! The contest is sponsored by Bellingham Repertory Dance Company and Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater. The seven poems will be interpreted in dance while being read out loud in the popular annual event “Phrasings” April 1-3 2011. What an honor!