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

 

 

##

 

 

Poem: Transmission

Recycled spring mattress used to train a vine. Old springs have many reuses in the garden and home.

 

Transmission

by Shannon Laws

 

Deep transmissions travel into the springs

thumbs at the bass wires as you whisper low

Pluck those strings beneath us pulled tight

I’ll listen with my skin

as it vibrates across my back

bounces around the bones of me

Sing to me all night

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/

Fresh Air

Yesterday afternoon, desperate for some fresh air, I slipped on my shoes and traveled half a mile to Whatcom Creek.  Earlier that morning I put some olive oil in my hair for a home moisturizing treatment so I thought I’d find a good place to sit by the creek and sun my hair for a bit, let that oil heat up naturally.  Just needed fresh air and sun- that was what I thought I needed, but I needed more.

It’s been six months since I was laid off from KVOS Television here in Bellingham.  I am a driven person but lately it feels like my wheels are spinning.  I continue to apply for jobs, keeping an ear to the ground for new opportunity.  I am networking and moving going… going… going.

Walking and thinking, thinking and walking.  As I think on new strategies for success I come around to the trail head.  WOW!  The bushes along side the path here have poofed out with summer leaves and new branches.  The new bark that was laid down in April is now hidden beneath all the growth. 

Nature stops me and says, take a second and just look.  Just breath.  I do just that, for a while anyways.

Farther down the trail a jogger zipps by that sparks more internal conversation this time about my summer fitness goals.  “Just need to loose 5lbs a week doing… bla…bla…”  about that time I cross the bridge.  The creeks water is surprisingly clear I can see the stones lined up on the bottom.  Sunshine hits the creek at the perfect angle casting shadows on the moving reeds that grow beneath the water line, giving away the creeks depth.

*deep breath*
How beautiful
Middle Falls, Whatcom Creek, Bellingham

I stop to poke my head through the rails to watch the creek move.  Just in the corner of my eye I see a small spider as it swings from my glasses like Tarzan.  Picking up it’s leader line, I lay it across a metal beam for safe keeping.  Watching the diligent spider sets my mind on a tangent about how behind I am on my goal for purchasing a home.  “How the hell am I going to do that?”

thinking… thinking… thinking… 

Back to my walk.  I notice a small trail to the right, a branch into the woods off the main trail where two fallen trees have created a makeshift bridge to the other side.  I study their positions and find a person could sit nicely on one and dingle their toes in the cold water.  Before I know what I am down there doing just that.  Reliving good childhood memories I start to throw items within reach into the creek.  Sticks tossed in float on top and float away with a bumpy “whoosh” downstream.

 “There is a family on the sand bank around the bend a bit; 
I wonder if they will notice my little boats.” I say to myself  

Then slowly… quietly… like a whisper it comes to me.  The Voice.  The voice I have traveled to hear.  The still small voice that my soul yearns to be enveloped in, mailed away and read by my Beloved.  It calls and holds.  It hugs and kisses my mind and thoughts.  Inspired to write I dip the last stick from my boat pile into the water like pen to ink and try to write my name on the bark-barren dry gray log.   With each stroke the sun grabs the letter, throws it into the air; birds rise up on the currents that circulate above my head.

My epiphany:  there is no black or white in nature.  Those are man made colors.  In paint black is the combination of all colors, white is the absence.  In television black is the absence of a signal and white too much signal, over saturation. 

There is no black or white in nature.  There is light, darkness and shade.  
There is color, dimension, and movement I can hang my toes in.

My interpretation:  we put ourselves on the treadmill.  I put myself on the treadmill forgetting to breath.  Exhausting myself, trying to justify my existence, when all I need to do is be.

***