Au jus

“A French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef on a “French roll” or baguette. It is usually served plain but a variation is to top with Swiss cheese, onions, and a dipping container of beef broth au jus) produced from the cooking process.” -Wikipedia

I post many first and second drafts of my poetry on this site. The illusion of “public posting” develops a type of creative wall for me. Provides just enough pressure to help me work out the kinks.

Today I would like to share will you some raw stuff. I’m a story telling poet. Most times my poems are generated from a real life experience or observation then I attempt to carve something tangible from the block of emotional marble, if you will. I’m guessing most creatives, do not know exactly where inspiration comes from or where it goes once it’s released, but this marble metaphor is what I’m going with for now. However, the backdrop for this poem is not what most marble is used for, a god in crisis or an ancient emperor. Instead it is a four hour visit with my mom at her cabin, watching her cook a simple roast beef lunch. Ordinary and extraordinary all at the same time. Love does that.

So, I had an amazing experience and I thought I should do something with this. This is a poem, a poem I would like to share. Driving home I used my cars hands-free system to record to my phone. It’s a type of “moment capturing” that results in RAW free form poetry, or spoken free verse.

Above is the recording, below is the recording transcribed. The finish product may end up in one of my books some day. Hope you enjoy this little insight into my process. -Best wishes always, Shannon


Au jus
by Shannon Laws

she asked me if I would like some Au Jus
Ya that sounds good I haven’t had that in a while
what kind of cheese would you like on it?
and for some reason I said Jarlsberg
she toasted it up on a bun
and cut it on a long diagonal
easy for dipping

at the cabin, we didn’t have the proper bowl for the au jus
and she said well we have too small of containers
or we have too large
shall we go with too large or too small?
and we both said too large

She toasted the bread just perfectly
crispy crust on the outside
and soft in the middle
and we talked

We talked as I was raised to talk
to talk around the dining table
about common things
and happy things
things that will not
disrupt digestion
and I wondered if it was because she was
raised in Minnesota
or because she grew up on a farm
or perhaps because she didnt get
her first television set until she was 18
but she is such a good conversationalist
I appreciate that about her
and I realized it is a true art form
I saw it for the art form that it is
conversation
good conversation
over good food
it does something to you
it heals the soul
it is good
good times
good people

it did even more than that
it reminded me how much we all need each other
and how much I needed her
her in her late 70’s
me in my early 50’s
We don’t have much time with each other
maybe 20 years who knows

I thought about my friends whose mothers
have already passed
and they all have said
I wish I could just call her up on the phone
sometimes and talk
and here I am at a table
in a cabin
with my mother
having an au jus sandwich

we talked
we shared
we laughed
we had a wonderful visit

a four-hour lunch is a good time
When I left she said
Oh I’m going to take a look at your new car
and I opened it up for her
she looked inside
and it made me feel better about my choice

and I want to tell you
confess on paper here today
no, it’s not a confession
It’s a question…
Have you ever seen your mother pray
have you ever looked at her from across the room
when she knew you weren’t looking at her
and you saw her lips move
and a subtle hand gesture
maybe she looks up to heaven or
off in the distance at nothing in particular
and her lips move slightly
and there’s a smile on her face
or something and
she just kind of glows for a moment
and you know she is praying
you don’t know the words exactly
but somehow you sense the love from her

I started my car
left and drove off
she glowed

##

Prose poem: Smells Like Winning

Photo by Takemaru Hirai on Unsplash

In the winter of 2018-19, I walked by a cemetery and crematorium to catch my bus.  Dragging my knuckles home after an unsatisfying day, uphill no less, pass the body markers of others, and the rush of evening traffic. —These are moments poets DREAM of!  I am thankful for the times we walk among metaphors.

With a 45 minute wait for the bus, I recorded memory of my migration “Smells Like Winning” in the form of what I call Spoken Free Verse. It is a writing exercise; the challenge is to compose a prose poem in a ONE take recording.  Below is the transcript, the audio file deleted.  In October 2018, while recovering from a bike accident I posted some of the free verse transcripts and the original audio.  The poem “Smells Like Winning” seemed too dark and I was hesitant to share that side of me at the time.  Please, don’t be frightened, remember some pungent truths are blown away simply by the scent of a cinnamon candle.

Smells like winning

It’s seven minutes after five and I’m sitting at the 540 bus stop on Woburn.  Its a loud, busy road connecting Alabama and Lakeway. The UPS and Post Office trucks clank by with chains on to help maneuver around the back roads that still have ice and snow. I have a 45 minutes wait for the next bus. The sun is setting somewhere behind me. Dusk officially starts.

Looking down I notice the heel of the black winter hose gave out today, a Thursday.  It couldn’t hold itself together for another day. I imagine it was that hard strut from the fax machine that did it in.  Friday marks the end of my first week; a new job with a new bus schedule. 

If I wanted to, I could walk up the hill past the cemetery and crematorium to the bus on Lakeway, takes 26 minutes.  If I did want to walk there it shaves 15 minutes off my commute home. But I don’t want to. Yesterday I did that, walked up the hill to Lakeway.  Hiked up that sidewalk with bumpy ice-slush and old snow beside the rushing cars set out like hunting dogs that haven’t eaten in weeks seeking a sniff of a fox. 

Yesterday I walked up the hill.  I noticed forgotten gravestones deep into the tall trees where the lawnmower can’t reach.  The stones are small, dark, gray, crumbling. A noisy creek snakes around the bottom of a ravine.  I stop to listen. The crematorium comes into view by the stoplight. Stagnant cold air holds a blue haze over the building, but there is no smell of wood burning.  The contemporary style building sits on the busy corner of Lakeway and Woburn. It took me a while to remember what they do there. I keep walking faithfully towards my bus stop thinking about the smoke as I get closer.  As I walked into and under it, around the traffic light, hairpin to the left 

My eyes weep in the wind.
I worked hard this week.
Rebuilding my life.
Breathing hard up this steep hill.
Taking in the smoke of the ones who lived before
filling my lungs with foreign moments

#

Spoken Free Verse: The Middle Seat

Photo credit: “Mural” Jackson Pollock,1943, (University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim 1959.6 / © 2009 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / ARS, NY) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/decoding-jackson-pollock

As I recover from a concussion ( please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more ) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year.  Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note.  Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me.  Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance.  Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.

The fifth poem I offer up for this project is a desolate poem with the working title “The Middle Seat” recorded August 27, 2018, one and a half months before my bike accident.  Riding the 1 bus through town it stops at the YWCA, then travels by The Lighthouse Mission before it comes to my stop, the plywood mill off Roeder.  Every day there are people in crisis on this bus.  It gets to you after a while.  At times it scares me.  I fear that, if I’m not careful, I could become homeless.  Sitting in the middle of the bus one afternoon, I witnessed a rare perspective between the hopeful and the hopeless.  I’m stunned.

I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem.  I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UHw3dogZno8Ev9pJlxORq2mAW09HCMrp

 

The Middle Seat

by Shannon P. Laws

 

I take the 1 downtown
my nose is bombarded by the scents of the 1
I smell an overwhelming perfume of mental illness, poverty and piss

I hear the voices of hope
three women in the front of the bus
discuss low-income housing
it’s options, what they’re like
how much they ask for
Two of the ladies are working to get out of the women’s shelter
and one has
one has gone into low-income housing
she’s made that next step out of that poverty
and they talk
and their voices have hope
I hear it
also, its riddled with pain
but they smile
and they share information

Five people behind me reek
of vomit and piss and liquor
as if they haven’t bathed in weeks
or maybe just since yesterday
I can’t tell
Bad breath
Everything they have is dirty
everything they touch is dirty
their bodies are dirty
These are people still on the streets

and there I am in the middle of them
It feels like I’m sitting on the edge of a knife

I could be
at a moments notice
in one incident
one health care thing
one accident
I could be on either side of this fence
but I take the 1 to go to my job at the sawmill
it’s depressed right now
work is slowing
we’re building up our stock
There are rumors we are building
up the stock right now to burn it

I’m drinking coffee and a breakfast cookie
sitting by myself in the break room
My body bombarded by the sound of the
machines pounding wood

 

 

##

 

 

Spoken Free Verse: Rejected Draft

photo credit Harold Ross Fine Art Photography

 

As I recover from a concussion ( please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more ) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year.  Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note.  Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me.  Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance.  Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.

The fourth poem in my Spoken Free Verse study is a short poem I have titled “Rejected Draft” recorded Monday, August 27, 2018.  It seems I walked into that Monday with a premonition how the week will end.  This poem is short, sweet and, in my mind needs little editing.  I present it, like the other poems in this series, as raw work in the original form.

I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem.  I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oCGwNjro6KL1rLbkGh7i-ArYAK062UoD

Rejected Draft

by Shannon Laws

 

I start off the week on a Monday

straight as paper

shoulders back

spine stiff as a post

 

by Friday I am crumpled

broken and bent over

like a rejected chapter

from a writers typewriter

thrown to the floor

 

##

Spoken Free Verse: Bowl of Epiphany

photo credit: Dish of Apples by Paul Cézanne,1876–77, Digital Photo File Name: DT1939.tif
Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 12-18-2015

 

As I recover from a concussion ( please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more ) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year.  Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note.  Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me.  Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance.  Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.

The third poem I want to share with you is “Bowl of Epiphany”, recorded June 20, 2018, while walking the interurban.  An epiphany is an experience of a sudden and striking realization.  June was the month I realized it was time to stop producing radio programs and open myself up to something new.  At the time I didn’t know what that was.  In August, just two months after recording this poem the answer appeared.  Transitions are difficult. Building a new life is scary, but what the hell else are you goin’ to do? If you don’t move, you’re dead.

I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem.  I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=17rmbLxDv09VRKimooTiip8RAX4ci-R_4

 

Bowl of Epiphany

by Shannon P. Laws

I think in life it’s not just one big apple
I think it’s many apples throughout a lifetime
and the apple I’ve been munching on for eight years
I’ve reached its core

I could eat the core
put the seeds inside of me
maybe an apple tree will grow in my stomach
I don’t think it will

I’ve reached the core of it
and I’ll toss it
I’ll toss it out into a field where hopefully
time will dig it into the ground and it’ll grow a new tree there
and I’ll look for a new piece of fruit that I can eat
it doesn’t have to be an apple
maybe it will be pear,
a nectarine
a hybrid

but every fruit has its pit
has its seed
has its rind
and they all end

there’s a cycle
it’s the swirl of the universe
it’s the way our shells grow on the beach
at the bottom of the ocean

and I’ve reached the pit, I think
I believed I reached it
I’m ready for something new and I’m scared
—scared as hell

but everything moves and changes
rain falls
turns into river
turns into ocean
turns into mist
turns into the sky
it turns into a cloud
and more clouds
until it becomes rain again

everything changes
and evolves
why wouldn’t people

such an easy concept

I’m going to climb that mountain
an easy thing to say
doing it is different
I’m going to walk
across the desert, it will only take a few weeks
no its gonna take you forty years
you need to learn a lesson
you need to change
you need to grow
parts of you need to die

life is a bowl of cherries
it’s a bowl of apples
you eat them one by one

 

##

Spoken Free Verse: Birds Do Not Fly

photo credit: Shannon Laws, Bellingham Bay, August 2017

As I recover from a concussion ( please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more ) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year.  Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note.  Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me.  Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance.  Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.

The second offering is a moment of humble thought, recorded July 31, 2017.  Nature and man-made transportation seem to torture me as I take a break from work at the shore of Squalicum Beach Park.  Of course, science tells us exactly how bids and planes fly, regardless, I’m dumbfounded taking in their magnificence.  The sneaky looking two-person boat crew weaving around the inlet with a quiet motor at sunset, hang something to the pier perched on the opposite side of the inlet is an understandable event, although I do not know their intentions.

I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem.  I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ukdHKxn_s6ORBPyR-BtZMxryz-E7Afax

Birds Do Not Fly

By Shannon Laws

I don’t know how birds fly
I sit at the water’s edge
I watch them
land onto the water
float on the water
I watch them easily hop around
I don’t know how they fly

I have no idea

Just flapping of the wings,
tucking back the tail and feet
nose pointed out
The motion must be repetitive in their mind
without any thought
Except maybe an instinct when the air changes
when the wind gusts from the side
or the heat vent comes up from behind them up
and lifts them suddenly, ten twenty feet in the air
It’s probably no surprise anymore
if they even feel surprise

and I watch them
and I still just don’t know how they do it

The seagulls near the airport are just as much a mystery
as the airplane themselves
How do we get inside a tube and just fly
We just sit still and move hundreds of miles an hour
I don’t understand it

A boat goes by with a motor attached
to the back a little dingy
It’s expecting some sort of package
It’s hanging from a pier log
It could be drugs
maybe a crab pot, illegal
Maybe they just found a cool looking barnacle
or some muscles thought they’d take a chance

That I understand
I understand a boat
and I understand a train

there’s a track
there’s water
there’s a motor

but flying
I don’t understand it

I don’t understand why the sun doesn’t just fall on us
or why we don’t get sucked into it
why were not drawn to the heat of it
and the moon…
it just sits there and stares at me
just half of it anyways
the other half winks

It’s eight o clock at night and the moon is up
it’s the last day of July
there’s no snow on the mountains

I’m OK with not knowing everything

 

 

##

Spoken Free Verse: Late for Overtime

Late for Overtime

by Shannon P. Laws

As I recover from a concussion ( please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more ) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year.  Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note.  Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me.  Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance.  Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.

The first one I present, “Late for Overtime”, was recorded September 16, 2017.  I was working a double shift with a six-hour layover.  That looks like a swing shift 2:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. then work the morning shift, 5:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  I was waiting for a carpool to pick me up 4:30 a.m. at the same place they dropped me off the day before.  However, my ride was running late, so, I am late for overtime.  It was that warm September morning, on the corner of Larrabee and somewhere, when inspiration hit me upside the head.

BTW, I open the Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.  you can listen as you read if you want. Please let me know what you think.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=13_eoS1FBjViDN2yFSFBYuhOSWkaciG_d

 

I’m sitting on the curb on the corner of Larrabee
and some street I can’t see the sign for
It’s almost  5:30 in the morning and the sun
is just coming up over the cascades
Its paint brush is changing the sky from
a charcoal gray to a very, very dark blue
Fingernail moon is just misty just fuzzy,
right almost out of sight behind a thin layer of clouds

Cold rushes up over the hill
hits my back
It’s the evening
running
running west
Afraid of the light
afraid of the warmth
afraid of the sun
It’s always running
its always running west
away from the sun

The air was so still just a moment ago and now
after seeing that sliver of light over the hills
it picked up and it
rushes itself down the
ravine, towards the water
towards Bellingham Bay

It flosses the town in a silent scream

There’s sprinklers in the background and I’m wondering…
I’m wondering why I never sat on
a street corner
in my neighborhood
at 5;30 in the morning before

The sounds and the smells of the air
the change in the air—is refreshing!
It’s life!
It’s better than any season
because it happens every morning

The tall cedars dropping down with
their question mark branches
Look like a golden retriever’s tail
I know they’re hiding owls in there
Maybe they’re looking at me
watching me
wondering if I’ll scurry
across the street
turn in a mouse

At any moment the birds will wake up
The first bit of light will just hit the lids
of the sleeping birds
They’ll be the first to announce it—

It’s Saturday!

and Shannon is late for overtime at the mill

 

##