Photo by Sandra Kaas on Unsplash

Before & After: Poems of Quarantine, COVID-19, & The Year We All Lost

How have the conditions of our daily lives changed over the last year? There’s no question quarantine, social isolation, a global pandemic, and political and social unrest significantly alter our daily routines — but these events and situations have highlighted our adaptability and fragility simultaneously. The realization that we control very little of our own lives has come to the forefront for most in the past year; in turn, this realization has spurred the need for action. How do we maintain a sense of control in the midst of overwhelming evidence that we are at the whims of greater forces?


before


Dry Unwanted Parts

There is a pile
back by the fence
winters clippings cross stacked
It waits.
     It waits–
for gas
for the snap of a match
The sky to scroll back
the dead to rise
the heavy unable to move
the thin blown like leaves

Late for Overtime

I’m sitting on the curb on the corner of Larrabee
and some street I can’t see the sign for
waiting for my carpool to get me to the mill
It’s almost 5:30 in the morning and the sun
is just coming up over the cascades
a paintbrush changes the sky from
charcoal gray to a very, very dark blue
Fingernail moon is just misty, just fuzzy,
right almost out of sight behind a thin curtain of clouds

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

The air was so still just a moment ago
now a sliver of light over the hills
sends it into the ravine
towards the water
towards Bellingham Bay
I see it
floss the town in a silent scream

There are sprinklers on timers going off
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

A tall cedar hides owls up in the
dropping question mark branches
Maybe their eyes are watching me
wondering if I’ll scurry across the street

At any moment the day birds will wake up
The first bit of light will tap the lids
Good morning!
They’ll be the first to announce it—
It’s Saturday!
and I am late for overtime

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Work Boots

At the end of the night
the mill is put to bed
engineers walk the plant
lock the doors
leave the lights on
in the lead-red firerooms

My boots they rest
on the stoop
of my feathered nest
built for one

I sleep hard
wake a day later
wanting the world
to be different

It’s not

Monday arrives
with a wink
my boots
ready to absorb more
soggy disappointment


after


House Plant

Terra cotta prisoners
I have questions for you
As gloved hands
bound you to bagged soil
force-fed you vitamins
limited your height, your width
when roots reach the round boundary
of containment,
Tell me, do you scream

Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

Mixed Up
or Pulling My Hair Out Over a Neighbors Drinking Habit

How many smoothie drinks
can a man drink in one day?

How many smoothies drinks can
a man have in one hour?
I hear him blending eight
that’s too much protein powder!

…and how strong does your
blender need to be?
When you blend it sounds like
a thunderstorm formin’ over me!

I hate your stupid blending sprees
I want to throw that machine into a tree


     Oh my god
     I’m still for a minute
     I think I’m breaking
     It’s too quiet in my place
     nothing is shaking
     I have the need for milk of cow
     and testosterone enhanced
     smoothie
     right now
     must blend
     right now

          right now
          I. need. to. blend.

          grrrrrrrrr
          whirllllllll
          arrgggghhhhhh
          swirlllllllll

          vroooommm
          vrooommmmm

          aaaaahhhhhhh!

Lockdown Day 23
or Everything Around Me is Very Real

The apartment is 500 square feet.
The smells in my 500 square feet are important to me.
I judge my cleanliness which is equal to my humanity by its smells.

It is mid-April, and it is noticeably missing any hint of lavender or vanilla.
Instead, the fragrance of fresh dirt in the newly potted house plants,
and the body oils embedded in the couch fabric touch my nose.
The restroom smells like soap, shampoo, and Lysol as I want it to.

Does everyone know what air smells like? Good clean fresh air?
No, not everyone, everywhere.
Maybe air has no smell so the perfect canister of “air” should be filled with
nothing.
But that doesn’t work either.
If you buy air you want it to be better air than what you are currently smelling.
New and improved air.
The illusion of a clean, happy, healthy home at your fingertips after a fish
dinner.
Few want a can of Dusty Closet.

I purchased this can labeled “Air” and I’m not buying it, but I did buy it
now I can’t throw it away until it’s used up, because then I’m wasting money
and that is much worse than being a person in a smelly house.


Shannon P. Laws is a poet and a single mom. Shannon’s publications include Fallen, Madrona Grove, and Odd Little Things. Her poetry has appeared in Clover-A Literary Rag, Salmon Creek Journal (WA), LEVITATE Literary Magazine (IL), among other journals. Shannon has performed at various Northwest Washington and British Columbia venus and was honored with a Mayor’s Arts Award in 2013 for coordination of various poetry events in Bellingham, Washington. She received the Community Champion Award, 2015, courtesy of the Writer’s International Network in Richmond, B.C., Canada for collaboration with World Peace Poets.

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