Poem: Broth

sizvideos-water-hole
Water hole in Portugal, Serra da Estrela, Covão dos Conchos. in summer

Broth

Ten dollars an hour for twelve hours
—watch, stir, refill, stir again and watch.
My tool a large paddle punishes coconut clumps
Beats at them and their natural oil-tendency.
Tomorrow I’ll beat at raisins
Somebody’s gotta do it.

My day hovers at various levels of self-induced hypnosis
I’m on a lake of coconut directing my boat to stay still, hold still
do nothing but wait my turn to go down the cyclone

Leave the job to muscle memory
exit the body to float above the nation
visit the places and people of my imagination
I am someone else.
I am somewhere else.
A person who eats expensive granola

Meat cooks in water, bleeds out juice
Vegetables roll with the bubbles, lose their color
a slow boil
a long boil
add noodles
Soup

My First Villanelle: Towards Harris

desk wSwq
Found sticky note

But first a note from my desk…

 

This villanelle came to me during my first week at a new job on a cold, dark, foggy February morning.  With steel toe boots on and a budgeted $7 for travel and lunch in my jean pocket, I search for the bus stop on Harris to catch the 401 leaving at 6:30 a.m.  Last year I temped at SEVEN factories, now I walk towards number eight. The fog is another unknown-known waiting for me.

It felt like the ghosts of Fairhaven were dancing with me as I hiked through the fog, perhaps even poking fun at the site of a person up too early, with the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Ghost have no weight.  They do not need bus tickets, boots or money. Lazy-ass ghosts.

The overwhelming sense that I was NOT alone in that fog bank, spurred an “Our Father” out of me… and now I have a poem.

This is my first villanelle.  Think I’m gonna write another.

Thanks for your visit with me as I travel the crust of the orb,
~SPL

 


ghost o1_500Towards Harris

by Shannon Laws

One block before the dawn, heaven hides the fright
Ghosts match-step with me in curbside play
My breath sends a prayer into the air

I stride into Fairhaven’s ambered light
Behind me stirs a promise for the day
My lips form a poem too loaded to bear

Toward the factory stand steel and might
A slit of red that seeks the bay
My breath sends a prayer into the air

Ancestor songs sing “Run, freeze and fight!
Be a footed fish not a whale of clay.”
My lips form a poem too loaded to bear

Eyes search each block for tints of light
Seek sticky hope to fix and stay
My breath sends a prayer into the air

Blue ribbon peeks beneath band of night
Black evergreens promise the fog away
My breath sends a prayer into the air
My lips form a poem too loaded to bear

 

#

Two-Toned

Here is a blog post from 2010.  I no longer own this watch.
This real life story is on my mind this morning. Hope you like it.
~Shannon

Sometime around 2004 I won a prize. My sales efforts for the year earned me a gift of one item from a catalog titled “Copper Tier Winners”. It basically meant I placed third, with hundreds of others, within the nation wide company.

This was during a time in my life when I was working so hard with my head down and nose to the grinder, that to receive recognition caused confusion. I didn’t need a gift, I needed a vacation! Not really paying attention to my progress but just working like a dog, the numbers came in, and by years end, I was a winner!

Suffering from lack of sleep, long commute and a stressful work environment, I felt more cynical that elated. “Blood, sweat and tears and they give me a crappy watch. Oh well it’s better than nothing.”

IT’S DEAD
So, six years later, the battery dies. My new job requires me to work on a timed schedule in an environment with almost no clocks. After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to use the suns position as a guide, I decided it was time to get a new battery. So out of pure necessity I drove the three miles into town to fix this issue.

“How long will it take?”
“Come back tomorrow morning. It’ll be ready by then. Ten bucks total.”
“Great!”
That was in May.

Months later I called in to apologize and let them know I’d be in that week on my day off.
“What name is it under?” I told them.
“We don’t have a watch under that name. What kind of watch is it?”

I suddenly realized I didn’t know the brand of the watch that I had been wearing for almost 6 years.
“Ummm it’s a two-toned ladies watch, like a cheap Timex or a Seiko.”
“Nothing like that here.”
I left them my name and phone number in case they came across it.

Feeling hopeful this afternoon, I walked in to the jewelry store to meet with the assistant in person.
“It’s been a few days. Have you found it?”
“What kind is it again?”
“A ladies two tone watch.”
“Is it this one?” In the clerks hand was my watch!
“YES, that’s it!”
Then the lecture started, with a smile, but a lecture none the less “Now, this is not some cheap Timex or a Seiko, OK. This is an upper end Citizen. The difference of about $300.”
“Really?”
“Yes. You had us looking for cheap ol’ ladies Timex the whole time.”
The owner walked over and added, “So we found the cheap Timex owner, eh?”

We all had a laugh and I thanked her for correcting me. After wearing the watch for 6 years, probably looking at the face ten times a day, I didn’t remember the brand. To me the watch was a big joke.

The whole watch battery thing made me think back to that time. I thought about how hard that year was on me, “How’d I ever do it?” I wondered.

Seldom do we ever pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Sometimes, many of us who are performance driven belittle even the smallest achievements.

I’m glad I lost my crappy Timex; because today I picked up a Citizen!
I’m a winner!  (you can tell because I’m wearing a nice watch)

…and I still need a vacation.

Vicarious Vacation


The phrase “summer job” leads most people to picture a student making pizzas or serving burgers during the long three months off from school. If you live on an island it has a completely different meaning to a whole other demographic. A summer job(s) here is what the working class or retired folks do to make some extra money. Storing up cash for the economically slow months riddled with higher heating bills and expensive gift giving holidays, people in small tourist towns act much like ants gathering up food for the long winter. Jumping on an opportunity to help a friend with their tree pruning business, or ironing sheets for the Bed n’ Breakfast down the street are good ways to supplement your income. Being opportunistic is apart of island living.

Since I’ve moved to the island I have been fortunate to have summer job(s) that fill the week. I say fortunate because since the winter of 2008 one out of ten people in Washington State are unemployed. This summer I’m averaging 90 hours a paycheck and as expected, I find it difficult to do anything BUT work.

Writing has been pushed to the side, so has cleaning the house, and appointments are being moved into September. Instead of working on articles or my book, I am writing only poetry. My poetry however has not been of posting quality, but rewarding just the same. I write about how much my body aches, the way the sun shines through the trees, and about how angry I was at the moon; the crazy ramblings of an overworked woman to be sure. I DO think about my storylines, usually in the morning. Something will set it off. I’ll see an object or hear a phrase that ignites my imagination; it’s another refreshing creative escape, even if it only last a couple of minutes or so.

Until September rolls around I’ll just live my vacation vicariously through the other tourist. As I shuttle around the grounds of the resort where I work I pass and interact with all types of tourist. Three skinny boys in their tweens, bundled up in towels, dripping wet returning from a long swim in the lake. Seemingly numb to walking barefoot on gravel road, their only focus being “What’s next?” Planning up all sorts of things to do, see and eat. My feet hurt watching them walk on the gravel, but their excitement was contagious. Another day a sleepy couple, still in their flannels, come in for coffee and share with me about their wonderful yesterday of sight seeing, the super pod of orcas off shore, the kayaking, the hike. Just listening about their day tired me out! What a day!

Later that week I met up with a friend for coffee. She was as exhausted as I was but from friends and family visiting her. In one months time she had five visits, each time taking folks around the island, cooking, cleaning, and going out for dinner, seeing movies, then repeating it all over again with the next group. “It’s wears ya out having a good time” she joked. We both sat there exhausted and thankful for a peaceful cup and visit in a quiet house. I swear for a second our sighs were synchronized. We were situationally at two different poles but exhausted just the same.

Too much fun!

Two-Tone

Sometime around 2004 I won a prize. My sales efforts for the year earned me a gift of one item from a catalog titled “Copper Tier Winners”. It basically meant I place third with hundreds of others within the nation wide company.

This was during a time in my life when I was working so hard with my head down and nose to the grinder, that to receive recognition caused confusion. I didn’t need a gift, I needed a vacation! Not really paying attention to my progress but just working like a dog, the numbers came in, and by years end, I was a winner! 

Suffering from lack of sleep, long commute and a stressful work environment, I felt more cynical that elated. “Blood, sweat and tears and they give me a crappy watch. Oh well it’s better than nothing.”

IT’S DEAD
So, six years later, the battery dies. My new job requires me to work on a timed schedule in an environment with almost no clocks. After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to use the suns position as a guide, I decided it was time to get a new battery. So out of pure necessity I drove the three miles into town to fix this issue.

“How long will it take?”
“Come back tomorrow morning. It’ll be ready by then. Ten bucks total.”
“Great!”
That was in May.

Months later I called in to apologize and let them know I’d be in that week on my day off.
“What name is it under?” I told them.
“We don’t have a watch under that name. What kind of watch is it?”

I suddenly realized I didn’t know the brand of the watch that I had been wearing for almost 6 years.
“Ummm it’s a two toned ladies watch, like a cheap Timex or a Seiko.”
“Nothing like that here.”
I left them my name and phone number in case they came across it.

Feeling hopeful this afternoon, I walked in to the jewelry store to meet with the assistant in person.
“It’s been a few days. Have you found it?”
“What kind is it again?”
“A ladies two tone watch.”
“Is it this one?” In the clerks hand was my watch!
“YES, that’s it!”
Then the lecture started, with a smile, but a lecture none the less “Now, this is not some cheap Timex or a Seiko, OK. This is an upper end Citizen. The difference of about $300.”
“Really?”
“Yes. You had us looking for cheap ol’ ladies Timex the whole time.” The owner walked over and added, “So we found the cheap Timex owner, eh?”

We all had a laugh and I thanked her for correcting me. After wearing the watch for 6 years, probably looking at the face ten times a day, I didn’t remember the brand. To me the watch was a big joke.

The whole watch battery thing made me think back to that time. I thought about how hard that year was on me, “How’d I ever do it?” I wondered.

Seldom do we ever pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Sometimes, many of us who are performance driven belittle even the smallest achievements. 

I’m glad I lost my crappy Timex; because today I picked up a Citizen!
I’m a winner!  (you can tell because I’m wearing a nice watch)

…and I still need a vacation.

Commuting for "Life"

written: Saturday, November 14, 2009

After a hard day there is nothing like heading out to the beach for some wonderful Beach Therapy. This is free therapy time for anyone; you don’t need to contact your insurance company to see if it’s covered by your plan, ya just go. It was hard to believe while skipping rocks with my husband yesterday that we use to spend 90 to 180 min. a day commuting. It’s been two years since we’ve made that major life change. We moved to a small island 2 hours from Bellingham, Washington. Commuting is only 5 minutes to work and school. I’m continually amazed at how much more free time I have. We now spend and average of 3 hours a week on beaches.

According to 2008 statistics there are 128.3 million commuters in the U.S. and 46.9% of the commuting is city related; suburbanites driving to the city. In 2005 the U.S. government reported that Americans spend 100 hours a year commuting. “At a nationwide average drive-time of about 24.3 minutes, Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Yes, that’s more than the average two weeks of vacation time (80 hours) taken by many workers during a year.” For over 10 years my average commute time was two hours a day- FOUR times the national average! …and I wasn’t the only one.

Road Rage Queen

The longest commute I ever had was Port Orchard, WA to Seattle. Sometimes I would have to drive 60 miles through Tacoma via I-5, a 90 minute commute on average. If there was an accident on I-5 it could add 30-60 minutes to the commute. Normally I would take the Washington State ferries in. Two boats and a bus. One little boat took me to Bremerton, there I loaded onto a larger boat to cross Puget Sound, and once docked at Seattle I would take the Metro up to Mercer Street.

I had to get up at 4:30am, and would arrive at work by 7:30am; I came home around 7pm. It was insane. Why did we live across the sound? Because, we couldn’t afford a nice house in King County. A nice home in a neighborhood that also had a low crime rate and good schools. It was amazing that thousands of other commuters joined me on this “oceanic migration” every morning and evening. At times I felt “trapped” without my car. When the 6.8 2001 Nisqually Earthquake hit it was almost impossible to RUN home. The port authorities halted ferry service so they could inspect the docks. I was home about an hour later than normal.

When we lived in Tucson my husband and I commuted from the suburbs to the city. Although it wasn’t the longest commute I’ve ever had it was the most stressful. After about a year of commuting I realized that my body was in the sitting position for more than twelve hours a day. I sat in the car for 45-60 min in the morning, I sat at my desk for 8-9 hours, and then I sat in my car going home for 60-80 minutes. When I got home it was around 6 o’clock at night. I was just beat down every night. Kept in a constant zombie like state of fatigue, I made that drive for 5 years. By the time my husband was offered a job to this little town, we were MORE than ready to leave that insane lifestyle. Why would we drive that far for that long? Ironically it was because we both had good jobs in the city that offered excellent health benefits. Health benefits that we would surely need considering the mass exposure to pollution, road rage, bad drivers, fatigue, weight gain and stress.

Now after all those years of commuting hell, we are so happy to be 15 minutes from everything including the beach. My jaw hits the floor when long time islanders say things like, “Oh I don’t want to go ALL the way to Roche Harbor for that. It’s on the other side of the island.” This whole island is only 55 square miles! But then again I’m happy that they don’t understand first hand what real commuting is all about. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’ll just silently nod and am thankful that we all escaped “living in our cars”, to well… just living. It was the best move we’ve ever made.

How long is your commute, and HOW long have you been driving it? …or has it been driving you??

Seattle I-5 traffic

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