Angel From Montgomery

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music. –Billy Joel

Today on the way home from work I remembered a time not too long ago that I had a job doing wood repair and grading at a lumber mill.  The machine I worked on, called a plugger, was older than my mother and made of 100% steel.  It resembles a sewing machine, well a sewing machine the size of a truck, but its job is to patch holes in various grades of wooden veneer.  It runs on steam.  It is very loud.  My machine was in the corner of a massive mill and for the most part, people left me alone.  The whole mill was loud–so loud that you could sing to yourself, at the top of your lungs and no one would be able to hear you unless they were right up on your platform. To help my memory, because why not, I decided to learn new songs.  So I sang. I looked up the lyrics and tried to sing all the way through without a mistake.  I learned 5 or 6 new songs doing this.  Singing became a part of my work life.  It helped the time pass and, well, it really felt good.

BODY MEMORY

A musical friend of mine shared the phrase “body memory” with me.  She would learn a new song on her guitar and the vocals, practice over and over until the song was memorized by, as she put it, her whole body.  I love that idea!  It seemed to me once a song has body memory for you, you should be able to play with it a bit, expand, embellish, change it up some.

Angel From Montgomery was a song I practiced and practiced.  The lyrics told a powerful story.  I attached myself to them.  They became my history and life with each turn telling the story.  I thought by embracing the lyrics I could achieve body memory.  One day in mid-chorus I realized, Angel From Montgomery REALLY is my story.  My middle name IS my mother’s first.  My father was a true dreamer who never grew up.  I married a “free ramblin’ man” and we drifted apart over time.  I found myself on the backside of a 20-year marriage in a blink, unhappy, disappointed in myself, and needing some help.  How did Bonnie sing my future with such feeling?  In 1971 did the writer John Prine have a dream of me crying in my dishwater?  They don’t know me.  The music–the music knows us all.  It finds us like water to the sea.  Words and rhythm befriend our misery and gradually a sad, lonely, middle-aged woman plugging veneer in the corner of a 100-year-old mill feels no longer alone…

What song has moved you?


Lyrics

I am an old woman
Named after my mother
My old man is another
Child who’s grown old
If dreams were lightning
And thunder were desire
This old house would’ve burned down
A long time ago

Make me an angel
That flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
Of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
That I can hold on to
To believe in this livin’
Is just a hard way to go

When I was a young girl
Well, I had me a cowboy
He weren’t much to look at
Just a free ramblin’ man
But that was a long time
And no matter how I tried
The years just flowed by
Like a broken down dam

chorus

There’s flies in the kitchen
I can hear ’em there buzzin’
And I ain’t done nothing
Since I woke up today
How the hell can a person
Go to work in the morning
Then come home in the evening
And have nothing to say?

Make me an angel
That flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
Of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
That I can hold on to
To believe in this livin’
Is just a hard way to go

To believe in this livin’
Is just a hard way to go

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: John E Prine
Angel From Montgomery lyrics © Walden Music Inc., Sour Grapes Music Inc.,
Walden Music, Inc., Sour Grapes Music, Inc.

Day 305: Tattoo

On March 24th the governor of Washington State declared the “Stay Home. Stay Healthy” mandate. Here we are over 300 days later, fatigued, depressed, foggy, frustrated…and now hopeful. Hopeful that the pandemic will end this year, and America can get back to work. The second half of 2020 I began to read the daily “briefings” of American Historian Heather Cox Richardson. Her writings have helped me to place events into a perspective I would not have been able to do so on my own. It’s helped me, might help you, the link is at the bottom of the page.

John Oliver also makes me smile. I like his analogy of last week feeling like a person finishing a marathon, after breaking the ribbon and about to celebrate an official comes up, shakes your hand, and says, “Did you know that one million dogs are euthanized in shelters every day?” Just give us ONE DAY to feel the relief. PLEASE, just one day for those that survived the four year attack on America by Americans, can we have ONE day of hope?

Outside of politics I’ve been thinking about an old friend that passed away a few years ago. Jim joked about being a curmudgeon, but he really was a good-tempered easy-going old guy who had a divine level of dad jokes at the ready. There was an absence of family men in my upbringing. Mostly appeared as unreachable, or two dimensional. Grandpas lived in other states, my father had sleeping fits, and my uncles were loud, swearing, sons of bitches that belched loudly and with great showmanship at the Thanksgiving table upsetting the aunties.
Life has a beautiful way of balancing itself. If you are missing a family relationship, say a sister, parent, or, heck, a whole family, somehow life brings you a family. I do not know how it does it, but it is so welcomed. Jim was welcomed into my life as an adopted grandpa. We met at a poetry open mic. Here is the one photo I have of us, taken at his first book launch.

2015, at Village Books, Fairhaven

He supported my work, greeted me with a smile, asked me what I was up to in my writing world, shared with me what he was marveling at that day. A wonderful gentleman. I believe it would be egotistical of me to think I was special to him because he treated everyone this way. All people and everything about this world were special to him. He passed “into the cosmos” in October 2019. I do not know how much support I gave him, but he helped me more than I was able to ever share or express to him.

My poem “Leaf Tattoo” was one of his favorites. Often when I see a leaf tattoo or now, the little buds of a new leaf on the branches, I am reminded of his kindness. I’m thankful for people like Jim. I’m glad he appeared in my life, and for other “adopted” family that visited, albeit, only for a short time. They are true treasures.

Leaf Tattoo
You can you feel it
In my city
The change of air
as wind folds in
fall’s weather.

Orange leaves appear on
the sidewalks of Holly Street.
No worms to dance them back to soil.

Cement laden, laid on
the roadside in random patterns leave
a tattoo, imprinted on the stone.
Five pointed stars
a tree hand
pressed by feet and rain
bleed orange ink for all to see.

By winter the marks wash away
By spring, bright green babies wave
at us from their mother’s arm
borne back into our memory.

Photo by Sarah Mae, Seattle, WA, on Unsplash

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https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

Ode to Frayed Lotto Ticket

Ode to Frayed Lotto Ticket

by Shannon Laws

Oh lotto ticket on my fridge
do you know the ways you inspire me
the dreams
the projects
the possibilities
opened in my mind if only once, just once
the two of us found agreement

I buy you knowing I’ll never win you
I buy you knowing your love will never be returned

Yet, I place you on my refrigerator door
and embrace the idea that to love and be loved
is all anyone ever wants

 

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Spoken Free Verse: The Middle Seat

Photo credit: “Mural” Jackson Pollock,1943, (University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim 1959.6 / © 2009 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / ARS, NY) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/decoding-jackson-pollock

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 fifth poem I offer up for this project is a desolate poem with the working title “The Middle Seat” recorded August 27, 2018, one and a half months before my bike accident.  Riding the 1 bus through town it stops at the YWCA, then travels by The Lighthouse Mission before it comes to my stop, the plywood mill off Roeder.  Every day there are people in crisis on this bus.  It gets to you after a while.  At times it scares me.  I fear that, if I’m not careful, I could become homeless.  Sitting in the middle of the bus one afternoon, I witnessed a rare perspective between the hopeful and the hopeless.  I’m stunned.

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=1UHw3dogZno8Ev9pJlxORq2mAW09HCMrp

 

The Middle Seat

by Shannon P. Laws

 

I take the 1 downtown
my nose is bombarded by the scents of the 1
I smell an overwhelming perfume of mental illness, poverty and piss

I hear the voices of hope
three women in the front of the bus
discuss low-income housing
it’s options, what they’re like
how much they ask for
Two of the ladies are working to get out of the women’s shelter
and one has
one has gone into low-income housing
she’s made that next step out of that poverty
and they talk
and their voices have hope
I hear it
also, its riddled with pain
but they smile
and they share information

Five people behind me reek
of vomit and piss and liquor
as if they haven’t bathed in weeks
or maybe just since yesterday
I can’t tell
Bad breath
Everything they have is dirty
everything they touch is dirty
their bodies are dirty
These are people still on the streets

and there I am in the middle of them
It feels like I’m sitting on the edge of a knife

I could be
at a moments notice
in one incident
one health care thing
one accident
I could be on either side of this fence
but I take the 1 to go to my job at the sawmill
it’s depressed right now
work is slowing
we’re building up our stock
There are rumors we are building
up the stock right now to burn it

I’m drinking coffee and a breakfast cookie
sitting by myself in the break room
My body bombarded by the sound of the
machines pounding wood

 

 

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