This poem “South Beach” was written back in 2010 and later published in my first poetry chapbook “Madrona Grove” in 2013. It is what some would call a “process poem” where the writer uses the art of poetry to process a real event in their life. Of all the poems in the book THIS is the number one poem that generates an email, phone call or a conversation to me from the reader. I’m glad this poem has touched so many. When I read it, even 11 years later, a part of me is back on that beach. I can still hear the waves, I remember the eagle. That was the year of “no more.”
South Beach by Shannon Laws
Often, we would walk South Beach together That long large-pebbled beach along the Salish Sea on the island’s west side
Short, salt water waves lap up against the shore there, constant rhythm set by the wind, like a slow rock tumbler sifting for agates
Brown cliffs of San Juan barely hold a road on top itself Large crumbles of dirt clots lay at its feet predicting its fate
Hard soles are needed to walk this beach The stones just large enough to aggravate the arches as you walk, Hamstrings pull heavy with each step
Once in a while, whenever it wants to, a large eagle can be found perched on beach wood
He owns that beach and all who pass His royal brow gives no doubt
This is my favorite beach, you tell me, one foggy morning
We tried again to walk together I walked ’til I reached the Eagle King, you continued alone into the mist Mystery always favored over familiar I sit and watch you heavy step away
Alone you go into the fog leaving me to sit with the eagle You continue until a low cloud consumes you from my sight
I imagine you reach the end where the cliffs give way to the shore and the landscape bends around to the fields at Cattle point I saw you in my mind alone and happy with your thoughts and the sea
I sit and watch, You walk and ponder
A year later, You sat and watched as I walked off the island You let me go that year just like I let you walk the beach alone
When the Lockdown began I tried writing on my website every day to…well, I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was trying to document the experience first hand or maybe connect with my neighbors or contribute something to the whole event. After about a month and a half I had to rest. We all did really, didn’t we? We rested another year! I am embarrassed to admit I really, genuinely thought the Lockdown would last 30 days and life would go back to normal. It was my mom and the more mature folks in my social circle who predicted it would be a year before folks returned to the office or to school, “a year if we’re lucky” they said.
Washington State went into Lockdown March 2020. Our state governor has declared beginning July 1st 2021, wearing masks in public will be optional, not mandatory. *Some folks have already stopped wearing masks after being fully vaccinated. It’s a little confusing right now isn’t?* I have personally decided to wear my mask until July 1st. However, last week I had an “Oh shit!” moment walking into Lowes Hardware store. About halfway down an isle I saw a person with a mask on, and realized I forgot to put my mask on. I just freakin’ walked into the store barefaced like I had no respect for all human life on the planet. What the hell? I touched my face to confirm and sure enough–NO MASK. However on that fine June day, I noticed fairly quickly that half of the patrons and clerks were NOT wearing masks. (?!?!) Was I safe from social condemnation? Yes, from HALF of the people apparently. “OK, so today I’ll be one of THOSE people.” I joked to myself. I went directly to the isles I needed, checked out at self-pay and hustled out of there.
Can I just say how exhausted I am of all this. One year and three months of all this. I’m using hand sanitizer throughout my day, so much so that occasionally my skin cracks. Has this happen to you? If you are fortunate enough to have access to an ample supply of hand sanitizer and/or you’ve been a front line worker the whole 15 months I imagine you’re skin has also cracked.
Here is a picture of a recent crack on a fold of my skin. (BTW, a very difficult angle for a photo) Under my right pinkie is a new “line”. A couple of years ago I studied palmistry for a story. I knew this area of the hand is about marriage. As a middle-aged divorced woman I giggled a bit. Was a new marriage being forged into my future or perhaps another being wiped out? Either way it required hydrogen peroxide to heal. My mind traveled down that thought a bit, farther than necessary as I often do… How wonderful it would be if troubled couples could simply dip themselves in a healing solution to fix their relationships. Many arguments stem from past hurts, hurts and calluses that were formed before the marriage began. We sometimes bring those unresolved events into our new relationships. As I date a little these last few years I find the most attractive dates are those who are actively working on self improvement. In your 40’s and 50’s it’s time for a “refresh” I think, whether you are single or in-couple. You are no longer who were at 22, or even 32. What do you think?
Here is a meme for my mood today. I’ll try not to take myself too seriously. Hope you have a super day. -Shannon
*Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
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.
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.
They took your data. Then they took control. The Great Hack uncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the compelling personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal. In select theaters and on Netflix July 24.
I use to watch a show called “The Lottery Changed My Life”. As you may know, some people are naturally better at handling change than others. Most lottery winners, one out of three, go broke, waisting the miraculous opportunity. Another attribute of a sudden gain in money is the amplification of whatever characteristic you possess, vices, and blessings. Money doesn’t change people, it amplifies what was already there. Regardless of how good you may be at adapting, all major change comes with stress (see chart below).
A pandemic, a lasting event that is both unexpected and stressful much like winning the lottery, could be described as a one-size-fits-all global catastrophe. Although it has a blanket effect on people, it is also extremely customized per person based on what our situation was before it hit. Each of us has unique circumstances that have created a specific pandemic experience. It is as unique as our address if we are fortunate to have one. As I walk about my day these past three months I hear different experiences from each acquaintance, co-worker, relative, or strangers that I chat up. Here are the basic types in no particular order:
-My job is essential, working more hours, I’m exhausted, resources are difficult to come by, communication is slowed
-I was laid off from work, my unemployment was messed up, took 6 weeks to get it, I had to visit the food bank and paid no bills while waiting for unemployment to arrive
-I haven’t paid my rent since April 1st and I’m afraid I’ll be evicted on August 1st. I cannot afford to move so I will end up in my car
-We sold the home we lived in for 20 years, we are downsizing in preparation for retirement, I’m going on a vacation will be back in two weeks
-My wife got COVID-19, she’s high risk, was in the hospital for almost three weeks. The bill came and it’s close to $50k dollars! We will be paying this for the rest of our lives
-I hang out with friends, I’m young, I found a cool mask online. Glad school is over
-One day in March all of my clients called me, all 23 of them in one day, to cancel service. My husband came home early the same day—laid off from his job! I’ve been crying all week! We don’t have savings and I’m scared
-My husband and I are fighting more now. How can I leave him during a pandemic? I’m sheltered in place with someone I hate
-I work from home since the shelter-in-place mandates. I attend six zoom meetings a week with different departments. Almost 90% of my socializing is done electronically. It is somehow exhausting
-I’m doing OK. Left social media and got rid of my smartphone years ago to free up my time working on my art. I howl at the moon every night at 7:00. I’m worried for my neighbors
-I leave the house once a month for groceries. I work on my yard, sit on the porch, read, and talk to my neighbors as they pass by. I’m bored, but I want to be safe. I’m in a high-risk category. I am in no hurry to get back out there
-Laid off from the refinery and on unemployment since May. It’s like an extended vacation! I’m almost finished with my backyard projects, I’ve gone fishing, camping visited my Uncle over on the lake in Eastern Washington. All of this pandemic stuff and mask requirements are stupid. Once it’s over I’ll get my job back
-Two of our adult children needed to shelter in place at our home. So all six of us are under one roof again. I am very busy right now. When I come home sometimes very late I step over the sleeping bodies of two of my kids in the living room.
-I discovered that my regular life is similar to shelter-in-place. For about 10 years my work has been online, in a virtual office, I’m a gamer, and my whole social network is virtual.
So if you’re like me today and feeling a little pouty, consider this new mask that includes a window into your soul! Let the world see your pouty luscious lips. Don’t let an all-cotton mask keep your gloss light hidden. Shine on, baby, shine on! Only $7.99–
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.
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
So, a while back a friend said she could finally afford to buy that bohemian coat she wanted. The use of the word “bohemian” spurred memories. I’ve considered myself a bohemian ever since my aunt gave me a turquoise & silver ring when I was seven. My aunt lived the bohemian lifestyle and getting that ring from her, in my simple-kid mind, meant I was in the club. My contributions to the movement were growing out my long straight black hair, wearing a bandana when I mowed the lawn and, as often as possible, sit on our couch in an incorrect manner.
Before the pale blues and mauves of the ’80s made their appearance into my childhood, I was surrounded by beatnik leftovers from my parent’s first home; my mother’s early ’60s style contrasted with her sister’s ’70s experience melting together into a sweet avocado green. Of course, I had no idea what either of those lifestyles was about! Our living room was crowned by a 3-foot round metal, astrological chart wheel hanging above a black and white leopard print flop couch, adjacent to a row of mahogany stained bookshelves and dad’s tobacco pipe cady. In my room, Barbie was living clean in her shoebox and lego “Dream House”. Literature in the home included encyclopedias, LIFE Book collections, sci-fi books and poetry by Kahlil Gibran. Music was predominately 60’s jazz albums, Bill Cosby, Helen Reddy, and Carole King.
But it wasn’t my stuff, it was the life and home that my parents built for us. It was warm and happy. As an adult, how do I recreate a modern art of living? Somewhere along the way, I lost it. I need to get out of survival mode and find my faux-bohemian again.
Turn those dreams of the high retired life down a couple notches. First, be honest with yourself. Instead of a dream retirement cabin on the lake, you can be just as happy in a studio apartment that’s 30-minutes away from a lake. Just visit the lake. You don’t need the whole lake. This isn’t the 50’s. No lake for you.
The west coast of Washington and Oregon offer a high quality of life, clean air, water including water in the shape of lakes that we can all visit. In WA we have all four seasons, mild winters, besides the scratchy track of volcanoes down the middle of the Cascades, we’re doing alright…except for the cost of living. According to the site costofliving.net the cost of living in Washington is higher than the national average. They report,
“Our cost of living indices are based on a US average of 100. An amount below 100 means Washington is cheaper than the US average. A cost of living index above 100 means Washington, Washington is more expensive. Washington’s cost of living is 118.7. Housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference. The median home price in Washington is $381,300.”
How do you add quality to your life on a tight budget? Of course, defining “quality” is person-specific. In this economy, in this city, I am trying to live a good life but I feel like most efforts bring me down, and I am starting to take it personally. This American Life has it out for me. I pissed it off somewhere along the line and it’s not giving me anything, no living income, no happily ever after, no satisfaction except in a sunrise, no joy but in my neighbors blooming trees, no love but when that orange cat comes by and rubs its cheek against my doorway, no peace but the ocean that tells me it’s always there—it goes out, but it will come back, it always comes back. No glory but a rainbow around the moon and my childhood friend the Big Dipper and Orion chasing each other in the sky. The world is a big and resourceful place if you are a tiny red ant working with a million other clones. It’s all about perspective.
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 third poem I want to share with you is “Bowl of Epiphany”, recorded June 20, 2018, while walking the interurban. An epiphany is an experience of a sudden and striking realization. June was the month I realized it was time to stop producing radio programs and open myself up to something new. At the time I didn’t know what that was. In August, just two months after recording this poem the answer appeared. Transitions are difficult. Building a new life is scary, but what the hell else are you goin’ to do? If you don’t move, you’re dead.
I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem. I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.
I think in life it’s not just one big apple I think it’s many apples throughout a lifetime and the apple I’ve been munching on for eight years I’ve reached its core
I could eat the core put the seeds inside of me maybe an apple tree will grow in my stomach I don’t think it will
I’ve reached the core of it and I’ll toss it I’ll toss it out into a field where hopefully time will dig it into the ground and it’ll grow a new tree there and I’ll look for a new piece of fruit that I can eat it doesn’t have to be an apple maybe it will be pear, a nectarine a hybrid
but every fruit has its pit has its seed has its rind and they all end
there’s a cycle it’s the swirl of the universe it’s the way our shells grow on the beach at the bottom of the ocean
and I’ve reached the pit, I think I believed I reached it I’m ready for something new and I’m scared —scared as hell
but everything moves and changes rain falls turns into river turns into ocean turns into mist turns into the sky it turns into a cloud and more clouds until it becomes rain again
everything changes and evolves why wouldn’t people
such an easy concept
I’m going to climb that mountain an easy thing to say doing it is different I’m going to walk across the desert, it will only take a few weeks no its gonna take you forty years you need to learn a lesson you need to change you need to grow parts of you need to die
life is a bowl of cherries it’s a bowl of apples you eat them one by one
In 2011 I woke up put a turtleneck on and was like, “I’m a freakin’ mess!” That same month I started volunteering at 102.3 KMRE SPARK Radio, broadcasting community radio out of the Museum of Electrical Invention, hoping community work would straighten me out. I used the moniker “Boosie” to hide from judgmental ex-in-laws, and *boom* history was made. This was the profile photo for my FB radio presence for seven years:
Its 2018 and I must admit my life is better for the experience. Want to know more? Take me out for coffee or drinks and I’ll share all my secrets. Until then, keep it real…
“After seven years of producing radio programs, I have decided to say goodnight to this chapter in my life. Thank you KMRE, KZAX, and KPNW for supporting my work. Thank you all for listening, and a special thank you to the hundreds of guests who have lifted me up and inspired me and my listeners over the years.”
-Shannon Laws, producer/host Chickadee Productions
If you have any questions or want to listen to your favorite program offline please contact Shannon Laws on FB messenger or via her writer’s page.
The following is an embellished account based on a real experience. Inspired by the poem “the 12 hour night” by Charlies Bukowski from his book “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”
Christopher Titus Save Me!
By Shannon Laws
“…our bodies were worn, our spirits whipped. there was a sense of unreality.”
the 12 hour night, Charles Bukowski
I found myself in middle age working the graveyard shift as a deep cleaner at a casino, and somehow there seemed to be no way out.
I was smothered by
in high heels
butts in the ashtrays
butts in the seats
baseball hats on empty heads guts spilling over large buckles
Work boots, flip flops
bring in an endless
amount of pine needles
and waffle-mud cakes
Everything looks too tight
especially the Tuesday Tweakers.
I am drained here
my life is ending
but Christopher Titus is coming
in February. He smiles at me from the poster’s place
on each side of each four-sided pillar and near the door.
“As seen on Comedy Central!” “Get your tickets now!”
Christopher is coming! His spiky blonde hair and blue eyes hold life. He is my savior in an ash covered world. As I sweep up pieces of paper, fingernails, toothpicks, squeezed out limes from the casino’s clown colored floor, I imagine sweet Christopher busting through the main entrance on a white steed
he is shining
glowing with a bright future
a future he offers me if only I wash off my Cinderella ashes take his hand and leave this place
Oh, how he glows!
He talks to me—
Why are you here? C’mon, you can do better
You’re wiping up blood and vomit from slot machines. Your new skill is how to reach into the bathroom garbage to avoid a hidden syringe,
-and the SHRIMP on Friday Fish Day! All that half-chewed shrimp clogging up your vacuum! C’mon!
look at ME
look how happy I am
join me in this happiness
I was so tired, so dazed, my anguished mixed with hopelessness. I saw myself fifteen years from now, hunched over the sweeper, being called darlin’ and sugar, taking empty glasses once full of spirits, offering clean ashtrays.
I talked sense to my Titan
This isn’t so bad.
I’ve learned much more than biohazard clean up.
I’ve studied this species of human
that gambles. You can learn a lot from the way they put out their cigarettes. Like footprints in the snow, you know what animal walked by
The Texan—punches the butt straight down, it stands erect
The Cowboy— rolled and smashed, falls to the side
The Camper—sits at the same machine for hours, same butt brand overfills ashtray
The Britney— pink lipstick on the butt, usually a camper
Ladybird— smokes the very thin lady cigarette, flutters around from machine to machine
Still, my Titan smiles
Then one night I stood up for myself and left
My last day is this Friday, I told my shift manager on Thursday.
You found something else?
yes, I did.
Fresh air and dignity
It pays nothing
On my last day I hand in my badge, I returned my uniforms, left my locker unlocked,
Christopher Titus had come and gone
A new act was plastered on the pillars
I turned and walked away
into the night
and my life was touched by
and it still
Want to learn more about Christopher Titus? Of course, you do.