So many songs begging Ruth Bader Ginsburg to “hang on” until there is another democrat in the white house. This one caught my attention. SNL 2019.
Thank you Red Wheelbarrow writers for accepting my poem, “Day 53”, for publication in This Uncommon Solitude your upcoming anthology of pandemic poetry.
“We are honored to showcase and share your powerful and poignant words during this unsettling time of crisis.”
Day 53 By Shannon Laws
If the world were normal now,
as it may never be again,
I might enjoy the morning.
This morning where I woke,
at 8:37 a.m., ate breakfast
drank coffee in bed, started writing,
and still under the sheets at 11:36.
If this was, let’s say, Friday, September 20, 2019,
I would not label this morning a case of pandemic fatigue,
no—it would be relaxation.
It is what the pre-pandemic modern world
used to refer as a “personal day.”
(remember personal days?)
I could find joy in working at home if all
my neighbors got into their cars and
drove to work this morning!
THEN today would be a special day for me.
But, it is not.
It is day 53 of the lockdown, and there is nothing
but the heavy responsibility of
staying home and
Jury Duty for women as a right- In 1979, Ginsburg argued Duren v. Missouri, a case in which a Missouri man accused of murder argued he couldn’t get a fair trial because of a law that made jury service optional for women. She told the court that such exemptions didn’t just make the jury pool unfair; it devalued women’s contributions to juries.
Equal pay regardless of sex- In her 2007 dissent, which she read from the bench (a rare move for any justice), she argued that the Civil Rights Act’s 180-day time limit shouldn’t apply in the case of discriminatory pay since gender-based discrimination can happen gradually. “A worker knows immediately if she is denied a promotion or transfer,” said Ginsburg. “Compensation disparities, in contrast, are often hidden from sight.”
Shower Thoughts: If you were invisible, you’d be effectively blind since light would pass through your retina rather than striking it.
This morning I am writing from my bed-desk. I’m thinking about the parts of me that need a shower and weighing that against the effort to leave my warm bed. The bedroom window is open a bit and the sounds of crows, seagulls, and chickadees, other spring birds, and that goddamn weed wacker play on random all morning. How many weeds you gotta wack buddy?! Landscapers in Bellingham are considered essential. Go figure.
The crabapple tree outside the window has wilted. Old blooms still cling to the tree, waiting for the new fruit, developing below the surface, to push them off to the ground.
I heard on the radio this morning that nationally Americans spent less money on food in April than they did in March. My grocery bills went up this last month because I’m shopping at smaller grocery stores; they have fewer products to help cover the cost for their property taxes, etc. Are they grocery boutiques? My cousin told me about a grocery store in the Chicago suburbs, where he use to live, that experimented with a carpeted grocery store. It grossed everyone out, and you couldn’t navigate your shopping cart very well. It was a fail.
Friday is my day off. Unless a “fire” happens with any of the properties or publications the day is mine. Yep, all mine.
Traffic around town is almost at normal levels. Many people, including myself, still drive distracted. Forgetting to signal, not looking both ways, driving way to slow on the freeways. It’s very strange or maybe it is normal now.
Decided last night to walk by the bay instead of my standard walk around the lake in the old-growth forest. The park by the bay was packed! I turned around and headed for another trail I know close by. I’m just not ready to jump into a crowd yet, and that’s OK. I’m not like my polar opposites that meet in groups for BBQ’s, house parties, and Capitol protests. In other states, these folks carry guns in public to help illustrate their rights to assemble, get a haircut, and eat at the Applebees. True Americans. I wonder if they assemble because there are no “old” people in their lives? Are there no friends around them that are “high risk” for the virus? Diabetics? Obese? Over 60-year-olds? People recovering from cancer or other illness? That must be it. How nice of them to speak for us that do.
I look forward to this all being over. I fear I will discover that my post-lockdown life is as similar to full pandemic mode. Honestly, I FEEL the pandemic because it is everywhere. It is a global event. This planet of peoples moan and wiggle like a two-year-old sitting through a piano recital.
IF the world were normal right now, which it will never be again, then I could enjoy this morning. This morning where I slept in, until 8:37 a.m., ate breakfast & drank coffee in bed, started writing, and I’m still here at 11:36 am. Glorious. If this was, let’s say, Friday, September 20, 2019, I would not label this morning a case of “pandemic depression”, no…it would be relaxation. A person could even go so far as to say it is what the pre-pandemic modern world use to refer to as a “personal day.” (remember personal days?) I could find joy in working at home if all my neighbors got into their cars and drove to work this morning! THEN today would be a special day for me. But, it is not. It is day 53 of the lockdown, and there is nothing but the heavy responsibility of staying home and saving lives. Whatever…
Here is a draft I’m fussing with today:
by Shannon Laws
I awake with a dry throat
from moaning in my sleep
I’m nailed to my bed
by the sounds of one a.m.
a rustle of false blueberry bush
heavy bodies trot by with a snort
I think I hear an owl a few blocks over
open mouths of raccoons act out a scene
play fight under the staged crab-apple tree
It’s so busy outside
when all I do is sleep
My current mood expressed in a meme. Take care. Be a hero and stay home.
Northwest Washington is experiencing some rain this week. Most of us are well equipped for walking in the rain, but if you can find a sunshine break to get in a mile or more of a walk it is perfect!
The monthly poetry discussion group I’ve been apart of since October 2015 is meeting on a weekly basis during the shutdown. We call it Poetry Club: Pandemic Edition, find us on Facebook. Somehow we have been discussing the work of Robert Frost for ALL of April. We got stuck on his work and can’t get off that bus. The discussions are stimulating, nonetheless, thanks mostly to the host Ron Leatherbarrow, who taught Frost at a collegiate level.
Here is the rough poem I’m sharing with the group for critique. It’s a poem I found in my writing journal from 2017:
by Shannon Laws
“And, as my way is, I begin to dream, resting my elbows on the desk and leaning out of the window a little,” -John Ashbery
As I stand to look out the windows of the factory,
I wish I did not have to sweep this floor on such
a summer’s Saturday.
I imagine, past the trees and along the waterfront,
people are walking with inner peace.
And I envy them—they are so far away from me!
No one has to worry about working five hours of
overtime to help pay their bills.
And, as my way is, I imagine myself small, a doll
in the hand of a god.
The mill—a toy house and the window fills up
with the freckled face of the child that plays.
If the real world is large and I just a toy, still I would
want to run free.
Freedom is better than shelter and care, I bravely think.
But inward I know I only have what others have given.
So, here I am, under the press of having to shovel a
mound of sawdust into the bin.
My Netflix queue is Peaky Blinders, Ozark, Dracula, Outlander, the very silly DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and the original Star Trek with special effects remastered. Star Trek could be a drinking game; take a shot of tequila every time a woman apologizes for almost being raped. Oh my gosh, I did not know how sexist that show was!
Have a good day! Be nice to yourself and those around you! -Shannon
Happy to report, a voice inside my head has been quieted. It wanted me to achieve an unreasonable amount of success during the lockdown. It told me how easy it was to work from home, finish my short stories, loose weight, eat better, get more exercise, clean every inch of my apartment and grow spiritually during this intense time in world history. It sounded like, after the Stay Home, Stay Healthy mandate was over, I’d be as Christ leaving the tomb victorious over death and writer’s block! Well, voice in my head, I hate to break it to you, but I am not Christ, I am human, although I’m a pretty good human, I DO HAVE LIMITS, for cryin’ in the night! To achieve Christ-likeness during these 2-4 months of a pandemic would be a small miracle for sure. So, I say “Good day, sir. Leave me to my textured life of layered excuses. harumph!”
On a different note, here is the first draft of a poem I wrote about my house plant:
Common House Plant
Terra cotta prisoners I have questions for you. Gloved hands bind you to bagged soil, force-feed you vitamins and faucet water. When roots touch potted boundaries tell me, do you scream?
1) an observed joy- this morning I enjoyed St. James Presbyterian’s Easter service live-streamed on Zoom, (the music was especially uplifting) and my “regular Sunday morning check-in” call with a good friend. It was really nice.
2) a real concern- The high cost of food in my area is still a concern. I decided to shop for fresh veg and fruit this Wednesday.
3) a personal challenge- reread “Why Poetry” by Matthew Zapruder
4) one personal success (no matter how small)- As of today, all my regular bills are paid.
5) a random thought (no matter how silly)- I haven’t had a haircut since December 2019. Washington State, the next time you shut us down, could we get maybe a months warning?
Here is my current mood illustrated by a meme.
I wish you, wherever you are, good health, peace in your hearts and courage for the challenges you face.
The moon speaks to me through my window slit, curtain and blinds open just enough for fresh air to relieve me in the night The moon speaks to me announcing it is 3 o’clock it chatters away for 20 minutes about plans, loves, problems, recipes Please be quiet and let me sleep, I say in moon-speak Wake up and love me, it replies Meanwhile, car headlights in the drive below mark the return of my car-pooling bar tending neighbor she is tired at the end of her shift, dinner and bed will come quickly She tossed drinks and mixed spirits all night for others, now the stars put her to sleep I toss and turn awaken by the commotion of conversation between heavenly bodies and earthly Please do me a favor moon, put me to bed, send me to sleep till the sun rises, tuck me up in sheets of silver beams, warm me in your glow, watch over my spirit when it jumps out to dream, be my Guardian tonight and… just shut your mouth!
Moonlight Through Window,
watercolor by Vinderburger
Village Books Poetry Group is a fine place to bring in a PIP = poem in progress. Last Thursday I shared this new poem “PEW” with my group. One line in the poem started an interesting conversation. The line is “Mid service she wiggles like bacon in a hot pan”. Some thought it didn’t fit, others said it was “an incredible turning point”.
Being apart of a writing group helps you to think outside the work. Your writing friends can give you a new perspective on work you maybe too deep into to notice. I find it a most helpful tool. Whether you write, non-fiction, fantasy, novels or poems, I encourage you to seek out a writing group. If there isn’t one in your area, start one.
Here is my poem in it’s original form:
She sits still at first
Coat on, legs crossed, hair in place
I do not know her name
her smile properly friendly
as she shares the peace
Peace be with you-
-and also with you
Mid service she wiggles like bacon in a hot pan
Her focus moves about the sanctuary; forward, then down at her lap,
the back of the pew, left toward a noisy toddler, then at the ring on her finger.
The ring receives the most attention
the corner of my eye catches repetitive moment
her hand out atop her knee, twirling the ring
her thumb and forefinger
Finally, her thoughts become action
Arm reaches for the spine
of a hymnal laying on it’s back
gone sideways from first service
with a quick flip she corrects
it upright, front forward
Her fingers now at rest,
she turns to smile
This was something easy to fix
If you live in the Bellingham area, or would like more informaiton about how to start a writing group in your area, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org