Pit Stop

 

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Sandpipers at Ocean Shores

Pit Stop

Early morning air whistles past the plant on the dresser, kicks at a scarf hanging on my bed post, then finds the place in my mind holding childhood trinkets.  I surprise myself, reacting in song.  I sing an old folk song handled and dusted by time, passed down generation to generation.  An oil cloth recalls the brass plate, treasured like a trophy discovered in the attic, reveals the words “Oh My Darling Clementine.”

Wearing boxes without topses

Wind and song send me away.  I’m sitting in the back of my dad’s big green truck, singing with family; brother, cousins, Aunt Jo and mom.  Camping gear stacked strategically around us and beneath. Weather report checked in the morning Seattle Times, large blue tarps folded in squares under the red cooler.  The cooler is full of four days worth of food including butter, milk, cheddar, baloney, and beer, of course, beer.

I-5 smog blows through the broken floorboard near the tailgate, the only bare spot on the floor; it’s a leak to the outside world.  It looks like a tiger bite or a claw ripped at the wood.  I want to stuff a kitchen towel in it to seal the room.  Our only source of light comes from the long rectangular canopy windows.  Classic layout, men in the cab, women, and children in the covered bed with the other commodities. We sing to pass the time, the men listen to the radio.

It’s 1977, summer vacation, and mom has cut off our worn school jeans to mid-thigh. All our church clothes left quietly resting in the dressers at home. Anything ripped or stained is allowed to go to the beach

At the half-way point, we stop to refuel.

I do not know how I must have looked to the clerk at the gas station as I walked up to the counter with a handful of wrinkled dollars.  Did I resemble a poor latch-key kid abandoned by working parents or perhaps a tourist who lost their luggage, forced to purchase a salvation army wardrobe?  The back of my long black hair teased out from a short nap. Maybe she saw many kids buying Bubblicious and a blue slurpee that warm week in June.  She saw so many a day that she didn’t really see me, I blended in with the neighborhood kids, whatever that neighborhood was called, wherever we were.

ocean-shores-scott-sean-shannon
Enjoying the cold Washington State waves

The night air brings it back to me.  I don’t know how.  Does memory ride the current like evergreen pollen, stains the skin with a fine yellow dusting?  Like that afternoon the San Juan woods seduced me to take the wrong turn, bending me towards a grove of pine in heat?

I travel a bit…

At the end of my childhood block is a field of sweet grass. Pull a large stalk, slowly, straight up, out of its hinge and you have a treat, chew the white sweet end for its nectar. One bite is all you get per blade. Take the flat half, place between your thumbs and blow.  We sat all afternoon chewing on sweet grass and whistling.  Why should I remember that?  That quiet moment found in a field, in South King County.

A few trees still stand there, ask them, they might know.

Remember.  Forget.  Remember again.

More wind. I am 10, I hear it all again. That vacation one summer…

The forest behind me, the constant waves crashing just over the dunes, the violent sound of a bag of ice thrown to the ground to break it up, the repeated clink of a male metal pump tapping rapidly along the female rim of a full tank.

“Kids, time to go!” An adult performs the last chore, drains the melted water pressed behind a flimsy white stopper at the cooler’s base. A solid stream of water hits the dusty oil ground with a poof!  Water skates to the lowest point, rainbows wiggle along the ground.  It’s pretty.  A fresh bag of broken ice opened, poured over the perishables.

The cooler, our snacks, ourselves tucked back into Big Green for the last leg of the trip.

ocean-shores-gray
A gray Ocean Shores day

 

Poem: Anything Else

deathof socrates alcestis
The Death of Socrates 1787 Oil on canvas, 98 x 133 cm Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

 

Anything Else

-Shannon P. Laws

 

It flakes off my shoulder when I bend down

Black trails my movement

Dark spots in the corner of my eye

let me know it’s still there

A reminder of the charcoal thread

that ties me to my past

whisps of whispers from

that one night long ago

 

The hurt bleeds out

over the decades

dribbles into a bucket

deeper than my lifetime will hold

A pain oozes out of me

weeps down the bark of me

black like sap

 

Poem: Wallow in Ashes

joseph-henry-sharp-lament-for-the-dead-xx-cincinnati-art-museum (1)
“Lament for the Dead” Painting by Joseph Henry Sharp, Cincinnati Art Museum

 

Wallow in Ashes

-for  Joshua S. Blough, 28, shot/died in Elizabethtown, KY  7/7/2015

 

Somewhere a family mourns

In your town the pleasant fields are quiet

fruit of the vine quivers in dew

sky covers itself in sackcloth

 

A neighbor calls for a welfare check

You answer with your knife

Weapon of passion, of close contact

Statement perhaps of festered pain

 

How could they shoot you down

so quickly, remove your life

take your voice, a voice that cries

 

Joshua you left us and we mourn

We will lament with howls

No oil will touch our heads

Joshua’s voice is silenced!

 

Twenty-eight years of breath

Your newborn cry relieved your mother’s pain

Your laugh made others laugh

Your voice comforted a friend

 

You walked among us

In other times than that day

Times of fulfillment

Times of past

 

 

Shannon P. Laws lives in Bellingham, Washington. She is a Peace Poet sister


 

This poem was created for “Lament for the Dead” project.  Thank you Carey for this intense project.

LAMENT FOR THE DEAD IS AN ONLINE COMMUNITY POETRY PROJECT WHICH WILL MARK THE DEATH OF EVERY PERSON KILLED BY POLICE THIS SUMMER, AND EVERY POLICE OFFICER WHO LOSES LIFE IN THE LINE OF DUTY, WITH A POEM.

“The first lie that hate tells us is that any other person is not as human as we are.

This project resists that lie by recognizing each other’s humanity, even in the most difficult places.

Some people believe all people killed by police are criminals.
Some people believe the police are criminals.
Many people believe no criminal deserves lament.

But this project asks us to seek the humanity in all people, even when we have committed terrible crimes.

At heart, it asks whether we hope someone might offer grace to us, at our ugliest or most difficult moments.”

www.lamentthedead.org

My submission posted here:

http://www.lamentforthedead.org/poems/2015/7/9/joshua-s-blough-28-elizabethtown-ky

 

Read the news article about Joshua’s death here:

http://www.whas11.com/story/news/local/2015/07/08/ksp-releases-names-of-elizabethtown-police-dept-officers-involved-in-fatal-shooting/29861815/