Do you have dreams about the home you grew up in? I can see my childhood home in my mind. The typical three bedroom west coast rambler; living area on one side and a looong hallway to the bedrooms on the other. As a young kid I was pretty sure the place was haunted. The creaky floor didn’t help.
Ghost in the Hall by Shannon Laws Odd Little Things, published 2014
When I was a child A Skeleton Ghost would walk The bedroom hall of our home Afraid of the dark I would sleep with the light on My door open just enough to keep out the trouble Ghosts are everywhere when you are four.
Often the ghost would wiggle its way past my door Steps heard creaking across loose boards Creak. Creak. Creak.
Down the hall slowly it walked Skeleton heading for the kitchen To fill up its ribs with mom’s pork chops Then fiddle its way back to bed After the meal was consumed
One scary night before this mystery was solved I slept between my parents for protection Bookends of adult and authority on either side Defense from anything ghoulish Each parent rolled over facing the walls As I lay blinking at the ceiling.
2 a.m. is Skeleton’s supper time Down it came toward my parents’ room Bones walk lightly when there is no moon Closer. Closer. Closer.
From the ceiling my eyes followed To see what stood at the foot of the bed Its frame wiggled trying to materialize To grab hold of me with solid hands Dad sighed in his sleep and the ghost misted away. Scared off by the possibility of his waking I waited. Waited. Waited.
My father was a quiet man, little brought out his anger, looking back I think dad was The Skeleton Ghost walking the halls at night His spirit jumping out, looking for food for his soul Wandering around for morsels of encouragement His bony frame proved little return
Wherever he is, I hope there is a table before him Every morning set with enlightenment, curiosity, love I hope he found peace because With one soft growl One scary night
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
Here is a poem from my latest book, “You Love Me, You Love Me Not” available on Amazon and at Village Books in Bellingham, WA. The book is an audio book and has a chap book accompaniment. The poem may come across as obvious to some. However, the book and this poem are attempts to explore that level of comfort and communication between two people who can read each other with eyes closed.
Introduction to Discovery
You are a question that must be answered
He touched me He touched me The way I wanted him to The way I wished he would He read my mind And he touched me
His fingers moved along the ridges Of my galaxy in search of the ignition old crate of dynamite hidden in the shed sweats with glycerin delicate to movement so my love is for you
drop that box! start a bang kick start a star to life
use all fingers to read me as a mystery novel written in Braille every bump, knob and dip a conjunction closer to knowing the riddle of Eve
This week at Poetry Club we ask what Is poetry analysis? Poetry analysis is examining the independent elements of a poem to understand the literary work in its entirety. Poetry Club member Lynn will host the discussion on the poem “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955) and we analyze the heck out of it.
Lynn sends us these notes:
“I’d like our discussion and reflections on this poem to move in the direction of exploring the mind watching our sensations and emotions while reading the poem…that does not hope to ‘solve’ the meaning of the poem… but expands the experience of the poem.”
Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879 – August 2, 1955) was an American modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and he spent most of his life working as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems in 1955. credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace_Stevens
This program was produced by Chickadee Productions
What a delight to learn a poem of mine, written in the spirit of Saint Bukowski, b. August 16, 1920, was selected for a chapbook celebrating his 100th birthday! My first international submission acceptance. Indeed an honor. A copy is flying closer towards my mailbox as I post this update. These are beautiful, limited edition, small press collector books that you can still order–get your copy today! Contact Newington Blue Press, East London, today!(Apx. £25)
“Newington Blue Press was born in 2020 – when due to the Covid–19 virus and pandemia the centenary Festival on the occasion of what would have been the 100th birthday of Bukowski – to be held in Germany – had to be cancelled. Originally planned as a small, humble replacement only, our anthology of tributes, testimonials, and unpublished works – lived up to it’s second volume so far and is to be continued.
The writer’s call-out & mission statement for BUK 100: “We have gathered writers, scholars, and graphic artists/photographers from all around the globe in order to celebrate the man Bukowski on the very occasion. Our contributors range from contemporary witnesses/friends of Bukowski – still alive, to emulating artists working in his tradition, scholars who work for or gaining degrees/doctorates on Bukowski to congenial artists esp. in the performing arts who are occopied with the phenomenon of the «poet laureate of skid row» for years. Everybody is free to greet Charles Bukowski in his or her specific way, style and individuality, be it an essay – a photograph or poetry. We would warmly welcome you to take part in our little endeavour, which explicitely aims to blow borders of nations and thus assembles contributions from artists from all continents.”
P.S. Perhaps you and a writer you know say, “I need to give this some air.” Reading a work in progress at an open mic or to a group of other writers can help form the piece. In 2018 I read my Charles Bukowski-inspired poem “Christopher Titus Save Me.” based on the Bukowski poem “The Twelve Hour Night”. It is one of my longest poems, yet written from the heart -or should I say the wrenched heart- about working as an overnight deep cleaner at a Casino. I had no words to describe the experience and Bukowski helped me find those words. But, the poem needed air, it needed to be tested.
In my town, we have a monthly open mic at the local indie book store, Village Books. The night I signed up for a 5-minute read, a new artist was in the crowd drawing, um, portraits… of each reader. Bob Zaslow–thank you. Bob included in his portrait lines from “Christopher Titus Save Me”.
Monday is the first day of SPRING! The sun is coming through my window. I watched it as it arched around the buildings, right-sided shadows slowly making their way left. The Christmas Cactus takin’ it all in. No meme this morning. just this photo. -Hope you are well, healthy, happy, fed, sheltered, loved and giving love…and CREATING, Shannon
Topic: Composition Methods Host: Ron Leatherbarrow Poems: “Housekeeper”, “River Ink”, “Her Hands” Recorded: December 19, 2020
In our final episode exploring personal styles of poetry composition, Shannon shares three poems written at different times, 2010, 2012, 2016, when her style shifted. Her background in broadcasting plays an unexpected role, not only in her composition but also in the presentation.
Thank you The Showbear Family Circus ( http://lanceschaubert.org/ ) Lancelot Schaubert’s and Tara Schaubert’s liberal arts circus, for including my poems, Crab, Grandmas Closet, and The Bog in your November 2, 2020 edition.
Your website stimulates the senses. Selected articles, short stories, poems, words jump off the page! I love this philosophy you have…
We want to focus on the liberal arts philosophy because we hope to reorder common ways magazines and readers think about news, scientific research, creative writing, and art reviews. We want all of the work shared at the Showbear Circus to focus not on money, power, lauds, or pleasure but on whether the thing made, the thought reasoned, and the feeling felt are good and beautiful and true.
You can find my poems in the November 2nd edition on the main page and here:
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.”
The worldwide pause. Will we forget these months? As citizens of the planet- let us promise to never forget. The deaths, suffering, confusion from our leaders, the kindness from neighbors, the debt, the empty shelves at the grocery and in many homes, the masses unable to pay rent, buy food, after only ONE month with no pay, the healthcare system strained, buying face masks for your family, exposed drive-thru workers, crops rotting, the temporary peace in Syria. The pandemic, The Great Pause happened.
Today I am supplementing my journal with this post by Julio Vincent Gambuto writing for “Medium”. His words challenged me and I hope they help you as well today.
Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. That never happened. What are you talking about? Billions of dollars will be spent in advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms — a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it.
We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work.
The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.
For the last hundred years, the multi-billion-dollar advertising business has operated based on this cardinal principle: find the consumer’s problem and fix it with your product. When the problem is practical and tactical, the solution is “as seen on TV” and available at Home Depot. Command strips will save me from having to re-paint. So will Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. Elfa shelving will get rid of the mess in my closet. The Ring doorbell will let me see who’s on the porch if I can’t take my eyes off Netflix. But when the problem is emotional, the fix becomes a new staple in your life, and you become a lifelong loyalist. Coca-Cola makes you: happy. A Mercedes makes you: successful. Taking your kids to Disneyland makes you: proud. Smart marketers know how to highlight what brands can do for you to make your life easier. But brilliant marketers know how to re-wire your heart. And, make no mistake, the heart is what has been most traumatized this last month. We are, as a society, now vulnerable in a whole new way.
What the trauma has shown us, though, cannot be unseen. A carless Los Angeles has clear blue skies as pollution has simply stopped. In a quiet New York, you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue. Coyotes have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge. These are the postcard images of what the world might be like if we could find a way to have a less deadly daily effect on the planet.
What’s not fit for a postcard are the other scenes we have witnessed: a healthcare system that cannot provide basic protective equipment for its front line; small businesses — and very large ones — that do not have enough cash to pay their rent or workers, sending over 16 million people to seek unemployment benefits; a government that has so severely damaged the credibility of our media that 300 million people don’t know who to listen to for basic facts that can save their own lives.
The cat is out of the bag. We, as a nation, have deeply disturbing problems. You’re right. That’s not news. They are problems we ignore every day, not because we’re terrible people or because we don’t care about fixing them, but because we don’t have time. Sorry, we have other shit to do. The plain truth is that no matter our ethnicity, religion, gender, political party (the list goes on), nor even our socio-economic status, as Americans we share this: we are busy. We’re out and about hustling to make our own lives work. We have goals to meet and meetings to attend and mortgages to pay — all while the phone is ringing and the laptop is pinging. And when we get home, Crate and Barrel and 3M and Andy Cohen make us feel just good enough to get up the next day and do it all over again. It is very easy to close your eyes to a problem when you barely have enough time to close them to sleep. The greatest misconception among us, which causes deep and painful social and political tension every day in this country, is that we somehow don’t care about each other. White people don’t care about the problems of black America. Men don’t care about women’s rights. Cops don’t care about the communities they serve. Humans don’t care about the environment. These couldn’t be further from the truth. We do care. We just don’t have the time to do anything about it. Maybe that’s just me. But maybe it’s you, too.
Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam! And that feeling you have right now is the same as if you’d been thrown off your Peloton bike and onto the ground: what in the holy fuck just happened? I hope you might consider this: what happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open.
What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped.
Here it is. We’re in it. Stores are closed. Restaurants are empty. Streets and six-lane highways are barren. Even the planet itself is rattling less (true story). And because it is rarer than rare, it has brought to light all of the beautiful and painful truths of how we live. And that feels weird. Really weird. Because it has…never…happened…before. If we want to create a better country and a better world for our kids, and if we want to make sure we are even sustainable as a nation and as a democracy, we have to pay attention to how we feel right now. I cannot speak for you, but I imagine you feel like I do: devastated, depressed, and heartbroken.