Poetry Club Talks…Jane Hirshfield


Topic: Jane Hirshfield
Host: Ron and Betty
Poem: “Optimism”, “Things Keep Sorting Themselves” and “A Blessing for Wedding”
Recorded: September 3, 2021

Jane Hirshfield Poems


Ron and Betty host the discussion on Jane Hirshfield’s poetry.  Ron shares these notes:

“In past meetings, we have discussed several theories of poetics, including
Zapruder, Poe, Wordsworth, Rilke, and others. Other theorists employ
explanation as to their primary technique. JH’s passage is representative of her entire book; it relies heavily on poetic technique to convey poetry’s special use of language, its intentions, and impact. Does her method clarify sufficiently, or, to use her term, does it “satisfy”?”

Touching on these topics, we select three of our favorite poems of Jane’s to discuss.  Join us for an exciting look into the poetry of Jane Hirshfield.



To learn more about her new book and to purchase a copy, please visit this site:



Poetry Club is produced by Chickadee Productions


Poetry Club Talks…Jack Straw Poets 2021


Topic: Jack Straw Writers 2021
Host: Shannon
Poem: “The Yellow Jackets” and “At Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena​”
Recorded: April 10, 2021

2021 Jack Straw Poets

This week Poetry Club discusses two poems from each of the three Jack Straw 2021 poets, S. Erin Batiste, Patrycja Humienik, and Abi Pollokoff.  Three brilliant and dynamic poets!  First up are two poems from Batiste.  Her website defines her as an “Interdisciplinary Poet & Storyteller, West Coast bred. Remotely based. World bound.”  Poetry Club enjoyed discussing the two poems.  We hope you will seek out Batiste’s books and add them to your collection.

Each year twelve writers/writing teams are selected by a curator, based on artistic excellence, diversity of literary genres, and a cohesive grouping of writers.

The Jack Straw Cultural Center is located in
Seattle’s University District at: 4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA


S. Erin Batiste is an interdisciplinary poet, storyteller, and author of the chapbook Glory to All Fleeting Things. In 2021 this year, she is the recipient of PERIPLUS, Jack Straw Writers, and the dots between fellowships, and is a Writer in Residence at The Studios at MASS MoCA, Prairie Ronde, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Her other recent honors include fellowships and support from Cave Canem, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference-Rona Jaffe Foundation, Crosstown Arts, and Callaloo. Batiste is a reader for The Rumpus and her own Pushcart, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net nominated poems are anthologized and appear internationally in Michigan Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and wildness among other decorated journals.” -from her website.

Please visit her website to learn more: https://www.sbatistewrites.com/

S. Erin Batiste


The poems attached belong to S. Erin Batiste, Patrycja Humienik, and Abi Pollokoff respectively.

Please visit the Jack Straw website to learn more about this fascinating program.

photo credits: S. Erin Batiste website, Jack Straw Cultural Center website.

Hello Again & Election Predictions

Hello, I’m back.  Did I miss anything?

On August 8th I took my blog down while I submitted a collection of poems to publishers for a chapbook publication.  I’m happy to report a lovely digital magazine picked it up.  Well, not the whole collection as submitted.  They selected 6 of the 23 poems in the book, (What is that…about 26% of the book?) –and no hard copies, just published online.  Not exactly what I wanted but it turns out it was extremely helpful.  I believe they helped me identify the strongest poems in the collection and exposed the fact that the collection is not complete.

Smoke from wildfires obscure the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline on September 12, 2020 in Seattle. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

The collection is a story arc of a blue-collar factory worker’s life before and after the lockdown.  What does a body do during a pandemic?  Working-class folks equate moving constantly with productivity.   Stay home? Stay safe?  Arrghhh!  My character starts to slow down and become hyperaware of all kinds of stuff.  They consider the cruelty of placing plants in pots,  wonder what the air in other homes smells like, and face the agonizing reality of apartment living with a neighbor that uses a very loud blender. This character’s journey is not complete.  I believe it is just beginning.

The working title was a bit complex.  I found the word “Desultor.”  Desultor is a circus performer that bounces and flips from one horse to the next.  It was a nod to the Five Horses of the Apocalypse and us regular-folk trying to keep our feet steady, while wave after wave of crappy stuff happens.  I’m not going to use that title, so if you want it, go for it.  🙂

Remembering the Time RBG Put Stephen Colbert Through His Paces, and Her Gym Routine, on Late Show, 2018. RIP RBG (link below)

September has arrived.  Did you sense a change?  A shift in the air is swarming over my city.  Children going back to school, kind of, and this extra bit of anxiety begins to hover as we all compete on Comcast for fast internet.  Thank goodness for 5G right?  ‘Effers.  Interesting it rolled out at the first of the year don’t you think?  Although I love a good conspiracy, EVERYTHING feels like a false front to me these days. It’s even difficult to watch my man Colbert.  The Trump jokes sting a bit.  Somehow, it’s no longer funny that our leader is a rage-induced baffoon.

In my work life more people are physically coming into each other’s space trying to do various jobs that demand physical attention, such as getting a building open and compliant to Phase 2 and 3 of the State regulated guidelines.  It is like an awkward ballet.  Social weirdness and outburst of anger are witnessed.  It will take a while for us to learn how to dance with each other again.

2020 Housing Bubble & Market Crash

I was keeping myself up to date on this anticipated housing bubble burst and market crash prediction, expected to hit within the next 3-9 months.  Anyways, I stumbled across this wild video, that I need to share with someone, anyone.

Dr Sulabh Jain of Chariot Palmistry, http://www.chariotpalmistry.com , is an Indian-Australian gentleman who predicts political and stock market trends using the art of Indian Palm Reading.  Wow.  I did not know this was a thing.  I will gently leave this video here and let you decide what to make of his predictions.

I’m glad to be back writing online again.  Working through the Pandemic has been stressful.  I’m showing serious signs of fatigue.  A great book fell into my lap.  I’m reading a book by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, a trauma social worker and educator, called “Trauma Stewardship”.  If you are a caregiver in ANY compacity I highly recommend it.

Take care.  Sending you hugs this day. -Shannon




Photo credit: https://www.vulture.com/2020/09/ruth-bader-ginsburg-puts-colbert-through-her-gym-routine.html

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky




Comparing CHAZ to Occupy Wallstreet, the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Black Panthers

This morning, I felt the need to re-familiarize myself with four protests, each unique, yet, perhaps held a common theme.  So far the first two decades of the  21st Century have exhibited some serious civil outcries.  In this video attached, Independent podcaster, Tim Pool compares CHAZ, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone to his experience at Occupy Wallstreet.  If you remember Occupy Wallstreet was a protest movement against economic inequality that began in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district, September 2011.  It was at this protest that the “We are the 99%” slogan was made popular.  Although I personally prefer “Eat the Rich”, that movement was about wealth inequality, not human rights.  This week it appears people began to connect financial equality + human rights + bubbling outrage of the for-profit US health care system. America is the only country with medical bankruptcies. Ask any person who recovered from COVID-19 and their $75,000 hospital bill what it’s like to live in the country with the greatest health care in the world. Money. Health. Race.

© REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson, Raz Simone, self-appointed “warlord” of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), attempted to clear up some misunderstandings about the protest community, explaining to the Post Millennial on Thursday that his only goal for the moment was “to keep the peace and unity, honestly, that’s it.” Sort of like a police officer., June 2020

This last week, in Phase 2 of the Washington State pandemic, I heard this statement on the news and it caught my attention, “equal rights is a health issue”—All THREE issues of the 21st century have come to full protest mode in the streets today!   The handle on the machine has turned tighter and another layer of society feels the oppression.  Suburban whites are jobless and their self-created safety nets are tested by the lockdown.  The 99% are heavy from the burden of their oppressors: for-profit healthcare, powerful corporations with a chokehold on our government, and systemic racism!


Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward met with militia leader Ammon Bundy on Thursday to offer them a safe escort out of Oregon. (JIM URQUHART/REUTERS), Jan. 2016

Two members of the Black Panther Party are met on the steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento, May 2, 1967, by Police Lt. Ernest Holloway, who informs them they will be allowed to keep their weapons as long as they cause no trouble and do not disturb the peace. Earlier several members had entered the Assembly chambers and had their guns taken away.









I can’t help but remember the militia that protested a land rights issue by the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building.  On January 2, 2016, an armed group of far-right extremists seized and occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, United States, and continued to occupy it until law enforcement made a final arrest on February 11, 2016.  Police used kid gloves to remove these ticks.  Only one person died.  If this non-governmental militia were black the event would have ended in a ball of flames and fire.  We know this.  The Black Panthers, 1966-1982, were considered radicals, but, love them or hate them they managed some effective social programs.  They provided food, clothing, and shelter in the poorest areas of their neighborhoods while demanding equal rights, better wages, and payment of compensation to African Americans for centuries of exploitation.  Many of the issues we debate today.


Wish I could join the BLM groups in the streets for peaceful protests.  I cried when I saw the face on that officer as he was killing George Floyd.  8 min 46 sec. The arrogance of this racist fool and dam the 400 years of fools like him!

I spent this morning re-familiarizing myself on recent protests and movements.  Some key facts I shared with you along with my opinions.  It’s almost 1:00 p.m. and I’m exhausted.  Reflecting, I know real change comes from within, but I hope, I REALLY HOPE that before this century is over our country will change outwardly, publicly.  Change is needed.  Change is required.  From the top down we need it!  The people are taking to the streets while the vote is being suppressed. America is a young country and it’s time to grow up!

Continuing the meditation I will reflect on these two pieces from Rob Brezsny:

June 10, 2020

I hereby renounce and dissolve any denunciations that I may have
inadvertently or carelessly hurled toward this Beautiful World when I
was under the sway of bad ideas, delusional attitudes, or unloving
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

By aligning my passion with the protests, I’m expressing rage and grief
about decades of police brutality toward African Americans—as well as
White America’s centuries-long harm against black lives and black

What also animates me is my love for African Americans and my longing
for them to be free to live their lives in peace, prosperity, and grace. I am
inspired by joyous gratitude and celebration for their gifts and the
blessings they offer.

Peaceful protest, Bellingham WA June 2020





Day 74: Last Day of the Lockdown

“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.

credit- https://mynorthwest.com/1906245/live-updates-seattle-bellevue-protests/, June 2, 2020

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.

My mood expressed by a meme.




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!

Minnesota police arrest CNN reporter and crew on live TV as they cover Minneapolis protests

I am weak.  I can not write. I look to others like Mr. Lindholm.
Please, read his poem out loud:



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.

I fear to go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I fear to go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I fear to relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I fear to ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I fear to have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I fear to leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I fear to play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I fear to sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I fear to sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I fear to walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I fear to play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I fear to go to church (#Charleston9)
I fear to walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I fear to hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I fear to party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I fear to get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I fear to lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I fear to break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I fear to shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I fear to have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I fear to read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I fear to be a 10yr old walking with my grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I fear to decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I fear to ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I fear to cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I fear to take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I fear to run (#WalterScott)
I fear to breathe (#EricGarner)
I fear to live (#FreddieGrey)

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.

Mercy LnL
Seattle, WA


Protesters gather near the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis during a rally Tuesday in response to the death the day before of George Floyd in police custody. Richard Tsong-Taatarii | Star Tribune via AP


Poem: Castaway

Rain clouds over Seattle skyline, photo by Christian Bobailla



by Shannon Laws

 I am a yolk inside an egg
first light backlit behind mother’s skin
Morning glows gently
through her Texas accent

It’s about to rain in Seattle
Clouds dark-gray-pregnant with drops
hover over Yesler Way

Latin guitars labor heel slaps
against slats laid on the café floor,
serenade woodblock prints
balanced by wires against the red wall

Joker behind me gets up
throws something in the basket
It’s Wednesday afternoon
smashed into a ball


I learned I was born on a Wednesday. Such a quiet day to be abandoned, laid like an egg in a forest-floor nest, placed there for fate to guard but the world to devour.


Tuesday Morning

Where were you when—?  I was living in Port Orchard, commuting to Seattle via ferry on September 11, 2001.  Here is my story:

This story was originally written in 2011.  

Tuesday morning arrived like any other September morning in my little, sleepy town of Port Orchard, Washington.  Located on the Sinclair Inlet, the town is known for a rich fishing history and its role in the famous Mosquito Fleet of Puget Sound.  From 1851 to the 1950’s, smaller passenger and freight boats connected business and people via the waterways of Puget Sound, before the conception of a state-run ferry system.  The old vessel the “Carlisle II” is one of the survivors.  Built in 1917, she proudly takes walking travelers from the dock at Port Orchard across to the Washington State ferry dock in Bremerton, about a 12 minute crossing.

Port Orchard, WA credit: marinas.com
Port Orchard, WA
credit: marinas.com

The “Carlisle II” was my floating connection to a good paying job in Seattle.  From 2000-2002, I commuted from Port Orchard to my office on Mercer Street with a cable advertising company.  It was a great location to work at; close to the main production houses, just a short walk to the Space Needle, good restaurants and the best foamy latte you could find.  Two boats and a bus, talking 45 minutes to cross on the passenger only ferry, or 60 minutes if I was on the auto ferry.  The passenger ferry is faster and holds about 150 people.  Once docked on the Seattle side, just a quick walk two blocks east was needed to reach a bus stop on 1 st Avenue that carried me the rest of way, in the perfect time for a 9 a.m. start.  I became a pro at working the three modes of transportation to fit any fluctuation in my schedule, i.e. running late, a half day, leaving early for a doctor’s appointment, etc.  However, on that particular Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the boats seemed to move agonizingly slow as if sailing through mud.  It was a voyage into the mind and spirit.  The return journey, back to Bremerton, would take home the same bodies as before but the landscape of our minds, that which we identify as being American would be all-together different.

Being the first one up in a family of four comes with responsibilities.   My morning duty was to get dressed and head downstairs to start the coffee and breakfast.  Often I would turn on the early morning news to catch the weather and headlines.  When my husband came down for his cup that is where he found me, sitting in front of the television watching CNN.  Right around 5:45 our time, a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.  The event was being broadcast on every major channel.  He grabbed a cup and sat next to me.

CNN’s first plane crash coverage showing the second plane on it’s way

At the time it seemed that it was simply a horrific accident.  We talked about it back and forth, “Wow, look at all that smoke.”  “All those people…”  “Could you imagine being in the OTHER tower looking at all that?”   We were dumbfounded.  It put a lump in your throat, but still it was “over-there” in New York.  Just a plane crash.  It’s amazing how things can change in 20 minutes.

The second plane
The second plane

We talked over the commentators who were interviewing experts asking the big questions, “How could a plane just accidentally crash into a building like this?”  One expert mentioned it could have been a mechanical error or perhaps the sun was in the pilot’s eyes.  At 6:03 a.m. the second plane hit.  We saw it LIVE.  My husband stood up and shouted, “A second plane just hit!”

“No it’s just a replay of the first plane hitting.” I replied.

“No I’m telling you, a second plane just hit the other building—LOOK!”

New flames were emanating out from the south tower.  We looked and waited for the person speaking to confirm it, but the newscaster did not yet recognize what we had witnessed!  The wings and landing gear on the news helicopters and airplanes were in the way, preventing a clear view of both towers, causing me to subconsciously toss my arms to the left, “Get out of the way!  Turn your plane around to get a better shot!”   Frustrated, I changed the channel to get some answers elsewhere.

The second plane hits

Within five minutes of the second plane hitting, Fox News called it a “suicide terrorist attack”, and NBC, “something deliberate.”  TWO planes HAD hit the towers!  A cold silence fell over our living room.  What the hell was going on?  The kids were just waking up and heading downstairs for breakfast.  My son asked, “What happened?”  For a brief moment the four of us just stared at each other.  As parents, we were speechless, but knew we had to tell our 3rd and 5th grader the truth: terrorist have just attacked America!

Carlisle ferry a "Floating Museum"
Carlisle II ferry a
“Floating Museum”

Then something strange happened to me, which to this day I cannot explain; I just fell into the motions of Tuesday.  It was 6:20 and I had to catch my foot ferry to Bremerton.  I did what the clock told me to do.  Trusting my husband to comfort the kids, I put on my commuting socks and tennis shoes then drove a mile down the curvy unlit road to the waterfront.

The old Carlisle so lovingly restored sitting at the end of the dock talked to me; “I’ve made it through two World Wars and I’m still floating.  Everything will be OK”, but I did not listen.  Hopping onto the boat, I headed right for the cabin to find a seat, instead of the stern, viewing Port Orchard’s hill of classic homes and evergreen filled ravines as the sunrise slowly lit it up, as I normally would.  I sat in silence, along with four other passengers, our ears filled with the sound of the boat’s engine as it navigated across the inlet.  My eyes fixed on a vacant part of the wooden bench in front of me.  It was hard to tell by their quiet demeanor if they were in shock by the events that just unfolded or if they had not yet been made aware.  Judging by the sleepy atmosphere that normally enveloped the boat, I believed the latter.  I didn’t want to say anything, perhaps I didn’t know what to say.  I couldn’t tell them what had happen.  It was nice just for a moment to believe, that it was Monday morning and everything was normal again.

ferry in the fog
Morning fog

As we approached the Bremerton dock I stepped outside for some air.  Our little boat passed by the mouth of the 450 foot long, jumbo class, triple deck auto ferry.  This early in the morning the groaning sounds of cars loading onto her made it easy to imagine the ship as a basking shark ready to suck us in like plankton.  Feeling myself being drawn into the gaping mouth, I sat up and fixed my coat so as to collect myself.

Once in line for the passenger ferry to Seattle, I could hear conversations about the event all around.  Meeting up with two ferry friends, we started to collect stories from each other.  Susan, a regular passenger ferry commuter who worked in the I.T. Department at a hospital downtown, had a cell phone with a news headlines service; it was a newer service at the time and not many people had it.  When she shouted out an update, those immediately around us would hush to listen.  While we waited on that cold dock for the boat to load she shouted out,

“All domestic flights in the continental United states have been grounded!”

Revisiting the Location

As we loaded onto the ferry, I noticed it was about half full.  “Perhaps some are home watching the news,” I thought, not wondering why I was going to work.  Those on the boat sat a little closer to each other than normal.  Susan and two other gentlemen with different news services talked and compared notes, trying to put together a time-line.  The rest of us at the table just sat in silence, absorbing every bit of details communicated, just trying to make sense of it all.

“The first tower was hit by a 747.”

“No, I don’t think so, I heard 767.”

“Oh my God, the South Tower has collapsed!”, one of the men said reading it off his phone.

Both towers DOWN

With a quick look around the large cabin, I saw many of those faces I commuted with five days a week, for over 18 months.   Anger, fear and confusion seemed to be the main emotions.  We were all different people who worked at different places: retail stores, hospitals, high-rise, Safeco Field.  People in suits, dresses, jeans, overalls and workout clothes huddled together in groups collecting data and adding commentary.  The group on the ferry, that morning, that Tuesday morning, was a slice of Americana, traveling towards a common destination.  It seemed we were searching for courage to get through the next half hour.  When the boat docked, more disturbing news traveled throughout the cabin.

“A plane has crashed into the Pentagon!”

“The North Tower has collapsed!”

columbia building
The view of the Columbia Center, Seattle, WA, from the waterfront

I wanted so desperately to get off the boat and to my office.  Working at a cable advertising company almost every office has a television in it.  I wanted to see everything, collect information and try to figure out what was happening.  Would Seattle’s tallest building, the Columbia tower, be a target?  It was over 900 feet high, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1985.  As we walked off onto the dock into the heart of Pioneer Square, that black tower dominated my sight and thoughts.  I tried to visualize a plane hitting it, wondering what the people on the streets of New York were going through.  It was painful to imagine.

Continuing to the bus stop, the ferry commuters spreading out into all directions, Susan and I stayed together catching the 1st Avenue bus.  On the bus she read the headline, “A plane has crashed in a field in Pennsylvania; possibly connected to the others.”

About ten minutes later, exiting at Mercer, I raced into the office to get more updates.  It would only take me seven minutes to get from the bus to my floor.  “Would there be another place crash by the time I get to my desk?”  I wondered.

Being on a ferry the day of 9/11 was a unique situation, a permanent mark in my memory following the old adage, “where were you when…?”  Where was I?  I was with my ferry friends sailing through dark, unfamiliar waters wondering like the rest of America, what was around the foggy bend.

grey people
The ash covered people of 9/11, walking in a haze

*Author’s note: this blog was originally written in 2011.  Months after the planes hit, new information started to come out, and continues to come out, about that day; information that makes me question everything.  However, this is not a political blog.  I do not know the truth, nor will I profess to know it.  Writing about that day helps me to process.  I was a zombie that whole week; completely numb.  This is my story about 9/11, and that’s all it is. Tuesday September 11th 2001 is a day that opened minds and stabbed many hearts.  -S.P. Laws

Philomena / What Are You?

Just last week I went to see the movie “Philomena” at the Pickford Film Center. Here is what the Internet Movie Data Base writes for the movie’s summary:

“When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son’s fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged.”

As an adopted child, this was an especially interesting movie to view.  It seemed at times Philomena, played beautifully by Judi Dench, bled out a mothers heart, washing the audience with the experience of a mother being separated from her child.

I cried through most of the movie, and as a poet and an author, I feel forced to categorize my emotions on paper.  Not even sure that’s possible.  In the meantime, below is a re-posting of “What Are You?”.  A post I wrote in 2012 on adoption and family trees.

A psychologist friend of mine shared once, the earlier in a person’s life that a tragic  event occurs, the more of an impact it has on the foundation points of the person’s character.  An adopted child is, sometimes, unwanted at conception.  It’s forming ears hear it’s mother struggle: loving the child, hating the child, doesn’t want the child, wants to keep the child, the guilt and anger.  Some adopted children end up as “transplanted fruit” attached to a new family tree, loved, cared for and happy, others may bounce around in foster homes.  I would guess that most of us have a puzzle that we carry with us, a puzzle that needs to be solved: who are my people? The family blood connection, especially mother/child, is undeniably strong.

The main point, I am glad they highlighted in the movie, is forgiveness.  It is a blessing to me to forgive. To allow myself to forgive.  You can forgive people you never met, even people who birthed you, then walked away.

My mother was 32 when she had me, information on my father is unknown.  If they are still alive, I wish them well.  Too much energy in this world is wasted on hate.  God bless you both, whoever, wherever you are today.

-Shannon P Laws



Harborview Hospital, Seattle WA
photo taken in the same decade I was born,
from the western slope of First Hill
and part of Yesler Terrace
For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It’s doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered “adopted” on the blank line.

My brother and I at the beach
My Aunt called us “Irish Twins”

In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is “What are you?”   …’scuse me? Yes, it’s true.  Sometimes I’ll respond, “I’m human.  What are you?”  However, when I’m in a cheeky mood, I answer with the only one I have:  “Me? Oh I’m Irish and German.”, then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  “You mean Black Irish?”

What are you?

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012

Folks are often confused by my features and can’t figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don’t know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Once I offered a friend some hummus.  They went on a rant how they do not like “foreign” food.  I informed him that he was insulting my people.  This friend knew I was adopted and joked back, “You don’t know who your people are.”  I responded proudly, “Then I am ALL people.”  We were joking around, but honestly aren’t we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody… or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something strange happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The “Father of Europe”

Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That’s a lot of people. In fact, that’s more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.
What’s wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.
So see I wasn’t too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.
(…oh and don’t insult my people!)


Philomena Official Movie Site- © 2013 THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
“Philomena” IMDb Movie Page

Chemical Warfare

Last Saturday, September 21st, was the International Day of Peace.  With that said, today’s blog is about two women who hate each other so much, they pass gas whenever they are near each other.  Yes, this story is about farts.  Not just any kind of farts, but farts in the workplace.

This is a real story.  It really happened.  If you stay with it to the end, I promise there is a point, a good point, the kind of point we should all ponder.

A Washington State Ferry docked in Seattle

Seattle, Spring 2001

Walking off the ferry I started to chat with another commuter who walked the same route I did to the bus stop.  I learned that she worked downtown, was new to the country, working on a visa, and that she enjoyed Seattle and riding the ferry to work.  I will call her Jan.

On another day, one sleepy morning, while staring out the ferry window, a nice conversation was started between myself and a gentle-looking-soul of a woman.  We enjoyed each others company enough to continue the conversation while walking off the ferry, up the three blocks to Pioneer Square where we split off, each to our own workplace.  I will call her Mary.

One day while walking with Jan, I noticed Mary walking with others on the opposite side of the street.
“Jan, do you know Mary?”
“Do you know her?  I think she lives in Silverdale.”
“Yes, I know Mary.  We work in the same office.  I hate her.  You should stay away from her.”
“Wha… why?  Really?  She seems nice to me.”
“That is because you do not have to work with her five days a week like I do.  I hate her so much, I fart whenever she comes by desk, so that she’ll leave quickly.”

A week later, Mary and I were walking to the bus.  Mary interrupted me to point at Jan, who was walking by herself into town.
“Shannon, see that lady there, in the light blue coat?  Stay away from that bitch.  Whatever you do, do not talk to her.  She’s poison.  AND she stinks like shit.  Like she never showers!”
“Well, maybe she has a condition or…”
“NO.  I’m telling you she always stinks, and it’s on purpose.  She is so nasty, I’ve decided to fart at her whenever she’s near.”
“Because she needs to know how stinky she is. How dare she come to work like that, stinking the place up!”

Pioneer Square, Seattle Washington
1st Ave and Yesler Way

Wow.  Somehow I had become Ferry Friends with two ladies who were at war with each other.  Neither of them knew that I liked the other, and so for a good month I listened to each of them tell me their side of an argument.  An argument started for an unknown reason, and the purpose of the gas attacks unclear.  Why leave a good paying job because of it’s methane levels?  The only thing I knew for sure was that these two ladies hated each other SO bad, they were willing to go to disgusting lengths to insult each other!

I stopped riding the ferry in 2002.  As far as I know the ladies are still gassing it up.

…oh, and I lied.  This story has no point.  That’s the point.