Topic: Louise Gluck Host: Linda and Amory Poems: “New World” and “Matins” Recorded: November 21, 2020
Our first two-parter! When Louise Gluck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020, the NYT recognized that many were unfamiliar with her work. One of their writers posted five poems, from five different collections, to introduce her. Linda shares a brief Gluck bio and Amory introduces two poems. In Part 2 Poetry Club discusses Gluck’s poem “Parable of the Hostages”
I’m very excited to have a small collection of my poems published in The Abstract Elephant Magazine this month. It’s such a beautiful magazine with an ideal mission. Please visit it sometime soon.
“The Abstract Elephant Magazine is an interdisciplinary, digital publication dedicated to understanding the issues of the human condition through the arts, the sciences, and philosophy. This magazine began with the intention to create a space for comparative endeavors and interdisciplinary research since our basic belief is that improvement in the human condition takes place in open dialogue and debate.”
The 27th Day Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions. -T.S. Eliot
Getting out of my car today I noticed a bee. A large and fuzzy bumblebee slowly moving its legs on the parking lot blacktop of my apartment building.
I saw a video once where a person found a honey bee in distress gave it a little sugar water and it flew away happy. I thought I would do the same for this fellow-creature.
I raced inside, grabbed a small bowl, and quickly concocted a love potion of room temperature filtered water with a pinch of raw, all-natural sugar into the bowl
Without saying a word I stepped up along its side, my feet ten times its length, my silence like the voice of God shaking mountains into the sea. A front bee-leg lifted up in proclamation-
STOP! Do not step on me!
I gave it a little at first, pouring my potion near its mouth, then watched and waited. I looked for movement in the folded cellophane blanketed atop the black and yellow body. A black thin tongue darted in and out of the puddle.
The rescue a success, I went inside and continued with my evening. I was quiet about my good deed. The next day I saw it. Flattened. In line with a neighbor’s back tire. Inches from the stain of the dried sweetened water.
The bee did not fly away in search of flowers to bounce on. It did not sleep as I slept, with lighter shoulders knowing everything was reconciled between bee and human. What did I do wrong?
Perhaps it was evil to intervene. Perhaps I poured sugar water onto the ground to restored life, perhaps I gave a dying bee its last drink.
This evening I went out for a walk. I walked four blocks in one direction turned right two blocks then came back to my home. It was colder than I was dressed for. Winter is coming. I’m quietly thankful this evening. It is unexplainable. The Dalai Lama said, “Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” Some days it is easier to defend the inner peace layer than others. I’m wondering when during a casual conversation three American friends will look at each other and say something like, “Remember when everyone had to wear masks?”
Thank you for visiting my site. Please stay safe. Take care- Shannon
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.”
“I have not been able to touch the destruction within me. But unless I learn to use the difference between poetry and rhetoric my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire and one day I will take my teenaged plug and connect it to the nearest socket raping an 85 year old white woman who is somebody’s mother and as I best her senseless and set a torch to her bed a greek chorus will be signing in 3/4 time “Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beats they are.”
-Power, Audre Lorde, American poet, 1934-92.
The end has come. Whatcom County in Washington State entered Phase 2 today. In town the neon “OPEN” signs are on. Emotional yo-yo beat down. Took two aspirin and laid flat atop the bed. I’ve been laying down too much these months, yet I needed it again. Everything around me demands it is essential that I get up. A chirping bird outside my window gave a speech, my phone rang twice with instructions. At 4:00 p.m. I listen to the news on my old clock radio, but the man sounded much like the bird in the bush–they won’t shut up. Take a breath, give someone else a chance to speak, I think.
I’m feeling a bit skewed. Disjointed. Unconnected, but not in a way you’d expect after three months of quarantine. You see, outside my window there is order. Inside my TV is a disorder. Walking my neighborhood are masked smiles and friendly nods. Online our nation is shouting and demanding justice. I watch from my desk and in my mind, I am with them. I’m at the fence of the White House demanding Trump resign. In the fog of Netflix and binge-watching–are these riots real? Is this a dark comedy out of control? Can it be touched? I could run with the crowds, get an eyeful of pepper spray, just two hours south of me. Seattle is sweeping up glass. It is nearby if I want it. Feeling thankful for the peacemakers if they are indeed real. Please be real. Please succeed.
Twenty years from now if someone asked you what it was like to live during The Great Pandemic of 2020, what will you tell them? The lockdown is over and I don’t have the words right now. Please call again later, thank you.
Video credit: The brief history of racism within the Minnesota police explained by reporter Rachel Maddow, MSNBC. #GeorgeFloyd
This morning my bedroom is dark. An early morning thunderstorm blocks the sky. It formed over Seattle, traveled 90 miles to reach Bellingham at 9:12. It swipes across our landscape as it continues its path towards the Canadian Rockies. The thunder shakes the earth. The earth needs to be shaken.
A poet friend posted “Say Their Names”, by Seattle poet Mercedes Aristotle Lindholm. It is shared below. I am not very good at talking or writing about atrocious events. My God—I’ve written about the death of my daughter in my book “Fallen”, I’ve written about homelessness, domestic abuse, even freakin’ break up poetry, but this…over and over again, this goddamn two decades of documented abuse…with no reaction by civic leaders–I have no words. Words literately escape me. It’s too much.
I can’t write about trump. I am outraged, gobsmacked, dumbfounded. My ears are assaulted EVERY DAY during this neo-nazi president’s rule AND amazed that the “Teflon Don” isn’t slapped in the head and dragged off to jail. It is not unlike the way police officers, fresh from the kill of unarmed black citizens, escape true justice. How? Why?
I do not like trump’s america. I want a Land Of The Free America, I beg for an All Created Equal America!
I am weak. I can not write. I look to others like Mr. Lindholm.
Please, read his poem out loud:
SAY THEIR NAMES SAY THEIR NAMES SAY THEIR NAMES
I grew up as a black man in the United States.
We used to throw snowballs at cop cars to get them to chase us because we, and the officers were bored. No one was trying to be violent.
Today I would like to do what ever I wanted.
However I fear that I can not.
Some think I am paranoid or overreacting.
Thank G.O.D. my children look white,
however they now both identify as black.
This fear is NOT NEW either.
I am blessed to know my G.O.D.
and to know when to shut up and keep my head down.
I have been arrested and incarcerated many times for no reason with no charges.
Been in cuffs in the back of cop cars starting at the age of 11, more times than I can literally count.
I have had a knee of a cop on my neck 3 times before I was 18.
I have had multiple guns pointed at me dozens of times. I have been taken from my property and stripped and given a RED jumpsuit for standing my ground!
And I am one of the fucking “GOOD GUYS”!!This is why now, I know how deal with cops.
Love and Light!…
peace is still a ways off I guess.
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
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
Here is another poem draft. It is the middle section of a longer poem. I think it can stand by itself. What do you think>
After the Evening Shift
The cat jingles behind us awakes an owl perched on a thick branch above prey prays quickly breaks pass the mill street corner lamp
1) an observed joy- The chickadee birds in my neighborhood make me so happy. A great joy about working from home, I hear them all day.
2) a real concern- I’m hoping the president doesn’t get in the way of the nation’s efforts to rebound from the virus. The west coast is coordinating the reopening of the towns, county, and states. Science, not ego, will save us.
3) a personal challenge- So many challenges.
4) one personal success (no matter how small)- Everything on my to-do was checked off.
5) a random thought (no matter how silly)- Where is my upstairs neighbor? She’s been gone for a week. It’s not my business, but WHO is traveling and why? Just wondering.
I’m pretty tired tonight. Feeling fatigued. Here is my mood illustrated by a meme. I hope you have a super day. -Shannon
How are you today? How are your neighborhood and your city handling the pandemic? Are you meeting up with friends and/or family online? I enjoy visiting with my family. Once a week, at a scheduled time, we meet online to keep in contact with each other. It makes me very happy to SEE they are well and adapting to this lockdown! Honestly. Please reach out to those you love if you aren’t already. Listening to music is also helpful. Did you catch Andrea Bocelli’s 24-minute concert this weekend? Oh my! Powerful music and the visuals of empty city streets in mid-day. Amazing. https://youtu.be/huTUOek4LgU
Here is a mood poem I am working on. It should give you a feeling of drama and anticipation:
Dry Unwanted Parts
There is a pile back by the fence winters clippings cross stacked
It waits. It waits– for gas for the snap of a match
The sky to scroll back the dead to rise the heavy unable to move the thin blown like leaves
1) an observed joy- I’m feeling thankful for our city of givers. People are generous and very helpful, they really are what a good neighbor should be. I will not forget these months.
2) a real concern- Two of our apartments were undergoing renovations in February. The pandemic has slowed the process as you can imagine.
3) a personal challenge- This week we are preparing packages of home cleaning supplies for our tenants that live in apartments, and expanding our shelter to house two more families while keeping to social distancing. It is a challenge. If we work hard we may have a total of 4 new spaces for 4 families who are experiencing homelessness available by the end of April. We are a small non-profit, and this attempt feels BIG. However, I have learned never to underestimate my co-worker’s abilities. We are diverse and creative in our approach, resourceful, well connected and very focused.
4) one personal success (no matter how small)- Although there is much to do at work, I am learning to relax when it is time to relax. Guessing by the time I become a pro at this work from home thing, we will be back in the office. LOL
5) a random thought (no matter how silly)- Even though I am not considered a high-risk individual, I wish I could know if I had COVID-19 and possess the antibodies via the blood test. Curiosity really. However, I do not believe our local hospital or testing stations would like a body mucking around asking questions. I’ll just stay at home.
Here is my mood today illustrated by a meme. A visual example of how I felt entering a fresh new 2020 and (visually) how I may feel leaving it.
Take care of your beautiful self! -Shannon