Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The first story I knew about swamps came from the neighbor lady who was my best friend’s mother. She told us Bigfoot had taken up residence in an abandoned treefort next to the dark brown teawater of the creek we used to dam up with sticks and leaves and fistfuls of loamy mud. We watched and waited up at the edge of the trees but we never got near that soft earth again. I moved away not long after that and I missed the swamp, as well as the one behind my own house. we used to ride our horses through the woods where that swamp was and we always got nervous about where the ground began to give. We could never remember where that was. I tried to mark the spot one time with a big swatch of green moss held in place by a rock I liked but when I checked, the rock and the moss had been replaced by a fallen treelimb bigger than I was.
This swamp is big. Longswamp, a lurch of falling sod cut through by a drying fiddlebow of creekbed. This swamp hurts for rain now, its backbone an arch of resistance poking up through the places where softness comes to settle for the night. I tried to give it some help the other day and I’m hoping the solemn steps I took across its western edge will bring on days of cold and drenching winter rain. I’ll suck it up and wear one of those lamps on my head I guess when this happens, if it happens, so those soft places can sag deeper, like the belly of some big hurting thing you love and want to mend.
This swamp has a mind of its own and I’m not just talking about the way it’s changing without rain. Sometimes I go to sit on a log in this swamp and I hear it telling me things, a soliloquoy of earthfunk and possumhabits, a tale I won’t even be able to remember hearing once I head back home. Other times I tell it something, not a secret but maybe a rhyme or a line from a song, and it opens up its big old sweaty swamphands and just hands those words right back, humming the way words do just below the brainspace of language, hanging out on the threshold between meaning and the flatline beauty of _____________. It can’t help but be what it is, a churn for the dawn songs of birds and a fertile hotspot where I could go blind waiting for its foxfire. It has tried, I know, to give up the sound it makes when no one is around to hear, that buzz that you think is your imagination telling on you for not getting enough sleep, that whisper of sulphur, that growl you wish you could carry around inside you like the memory of your mother’s voice.
This swamp doesn’t need anything new. It sustains itself through a variety of methods: the ritual spatter of Grape Nuts and birdseed out into one of its puddles when I’m thankful, the bluejayfeather I choose to leave alone on one of its logs instead of sticking it on my dashboard like a fractalled strand of jesus’ hair. This swamp is not just long but deep and it can conjure up old stories like you wouldn’t believe. It gave me a dream about a purple tricycle the other day, the one I had when I was five years old. I could feel the streamers in my hand and I remembered how my little brother picked up a dead wharf rat and left it on the rusting bananatriangle of tricycleseat for me to find. It was a gift, not a trick. A homecoming, rank and ready to return back where it came from. This swamp will tell me other things too if I’m not careful, like how the stars converged when I was born to make the shape of some big fish no one’s caught yet, up there in the jetstreams of midafternoon, not visible yet but waiting to be.

lks 2008


For M.

It’s midsummer and I’m standing in line at the airport, waiting for someone to check my bag. I burn my mouth on strong Italian coffee and try to read a letter I found on my car seat before I left home. The purple silk scarf tagging my luggage tickles my bare calf. I remember when I bought it, years ago when you and I still knew each other. It smelled like sandalwood then and you stole it from me for no good reason. It lived in the hall closet with your ties and an old woolen overcoat. You sheltered me under the deep arm of that coat when I called you from bars to walk me home through bad neighborhoods. One night I found the scarf in the coat’s deep pocket when I stuck my cold hand down inside it. I took you to task for your thievery but you didn’t want to hear it.
I remember the time I picked up a cookie from a chipped yellow plate on your kitchen table and held it to my face, inhaling the cinnamon and nutmeg. It was New Year’s Eve and I wore a short skirt and the purple silk scarf but no coat. You were sober and I was not. We listened to Jerry Jeff Walker and took a walk downtown. You told me a story and I tried to listen. We looked at some fireworks behind a clock tower and burned our tongues on hot chocolate in white paper cups. You held my hand and I played a joke on you, a rare moment of successful sleight of hand that made me laugh and stagger. But you didn’t think it was funny.
We sat on an old wooden bench near the post office and I ripped my red fishnet stockings on a splinter.
The dry air was cold, and a little boy laughed up in my face when the year turned. Not a mockery but a happy child’s shout in the street. A banner of laughter that I wish I could hear when I play with the edge of this fabric, but which hides from my fingers and doesn’t smell like anything much just now.

©Laura Sorrells 2007/2009
all rights reserved

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How We Forget Things

How do we forget? what are the ways we lose track of flavor, of words spoken, of song, of color and texture? Of the scents of our childhood, despite their persistence and the supplication of olfactory yearning in the almostdreamspace just before we sleep?
Decay: the collapse of small walls in fields and the images you held of how they were hiding places for fieldmice and groundnesting birds. The passage of wood into clay as the treeforts of your childhood tumbled from the clefts and crotches of oaks into the salty dry swamps where you once swore you saw Sasquatch hulking in the twilight. The erosion of fabric in your memory palaces or more precisely of the way your first lover's cotton t-shirt felt, slightly damp with perspiration and dusty from the dry earth of July, against your cheek.
Obliterative subsumption: the replacement of the scent of kerosene at the forbidden cabin with that of your mother's Shalimar cologne, drying slowly in a squat glass bottle in this morning's bathroom cabinet. The falling away of the way the tackroom smelled in spring when hay and leather came together, raising up sweetness to the crooked rafters and marrying the aroma of horsehide as you walked your mare across the field after she'd been running. In its place is the chalkdust funk of your classroom, fallen pencil shavings like sawdust beside a bookshelf in a harsh fluorescence you're not sure you'll ever quite get used to.
Interference: the way your recollection of a song from your first year of college gets mixed up with the chords of something you ran across on public radio's Saturday night jazz broadcast last weekend. The Composer of Delfinado steps in where South Central Rain once was and you try to get back the unintelligible growl you used to love, but it won't come.
Failure to Retrieve: you remember that you were supposed to remember a number, or several of them, a set of digits once branded on your brainpan with the merciless archery of infatuation and need. All you see when you try to bring the figures up are hash marks and half-assed runic swirls.
Repression: Your best friend did you wrong but you aren't sure how or when. You were both twelve, and she had a certain look on her face. She was wearing a striped tank top and talking trash but that's all you know for sure. She's nowhere to be found to ask about the matter and you just have to furrow your brow and then leave things be.
Construction error: when you recreate that scene on the subway where you watched the little man busk for change by playing a godawful stream of Martian music from some bent and rusted horn that looked like no instrument you'd ever seen even a picture of in a book, and in your memory the man is tall and elegant, shabby but genteel in a jacket that fits and apologizes for the hole in its tweedy elbow in a quiet trashcanfire language you swear you once knew the alphabet of.
Failure to store: the apples went bad in the refrigerator drawer of your shortterm battery charger and you wish you'd made sure the acid was going to stay put. You'll be more careful next time and there won't be this brown slime on the corrugated slats where the MacIntoshes once sagged.
The case of infantile amnesia: you didn't fall on your head, exactly, but you knew how to float downhill in the air, not flying but drifting along some current nobody else seemed privy to, a swath of pale pink blankie above a banister, like Madeleine L'engle said she once could, God rest her soul. You know your body has learned a different physics now, perhaps a replacement register where weightlessness goes and language comes, a mirror stage of sorts, a recognition and a letting go, a loss and a finding, a rescue and a drowning, remembrance bowing and heading off into the shadows behind the makeshift stage of your consciousness while words skip forward, their paradoxical little devil's hearts an incandescent tumble of trouble and sabotage, of abundance and power. Ready or not, here they come, and what you forget is the bargain you strike with all that holds its finger in the pages of your soul's ongoing chapbook. An ocean. A big lake that shows its shores in droughts but always fills back up, come rain.

lks 2007

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


( I wrote this in response to a prompt on another site: What do you have a hard time giving up?)

Pens. Not pencils, mind you. I don't much care about them though I suppose I should. and as a teacher I am uncomfortable with this predilection to keep my ink to myself and wait for the perfect chance to whip out that dusky green archival nib and make....a grocery list, perhaps, or a note to myself to get my car oil changed. I tend to hoard my pens, particularly ones with very fine narrow points. I don't like a blunt ballpoint. they are good for almost nothing except filling out official forms where you need multiple copies and you don't want there to be only dusty smudges where information should be. I like pens in dark deep colors like burgundy and forest green and purple. I keep basic blue and black ballpoints on hand for those students who, freakishly, do not have pens with which to write their essays or warm-ups. I can't imagine being in that situation. I like to travel light but there is always a small family of pens congregating in my bag, as if there were suddenly going to be some sort of apocalyptic event that would make pens a scarcity. Have I thought about the psychological implications of all this? sure. I think it means that should that creative epiphany come along, that light bulb moment that will set me to writing furiously no matter where I am, I want to be prepared to approach it with the perfect instrument for what it has to say. It might take me a little while to figure it out, but that's all right. The words have already learned patience, and I know they can wait.

The Teachable Moment

The teachable moment likes to hang around near the back of the classroom, slouching a bit and keeping a low profile until she feels the need to force her hand and say her piece. She despises rubrics and the rectangles of spreadsheets. She lives for the marriage of whimsy and cynicism, for the freedom to cool her throat with spring water from dented plastic bottles when she's thirsty. She yearns for challenges issued from the innocuous scritch of bitten pencils clenched in the hands of quietly subversive children who want to know more than how to force comparisons into the overlap two whiteboard circles share. She smirks at Scantrons and loses worksheets in the hallway, folding them into paper airplanes dull with smudges and angry Gothic doodles. She listens for gaps in instruction, for space between the disembodied squares of vocabulary words scattered across the wall at the back of the room like laminated flash cards with no answers provided. The last time I saw the teachable moment, she interrupted me in class to ask a question about how sheet lightning is different from those bright and jagged electric bolts that stun people's hearts and leave streaks of scorch on the ground around them. I stood still for a minute and waited to hear the raised and eager student voices of explanation and anecdote rush out in an unintelligible wave, but all anyone had to say was, "That's off topic. What are you thinking?" The teachable moment crossed her arms across her desk with her head down on them and fell asleep.

©Laura Sorrells 2009
all rights reserved

This piece was inspired by Dave Bonta. Here's a link to his prose poem, found at his blogsite Via Negativa:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

a space like breath

Between these waves of winter salt
and the fingers of deciduous stillness
that arc and lean above them,
and whittled
into the sparse clarity of speechless ghosts,
there is a space like breath,

like air but greener,
generous with wind,
learning the lightness of release.

lks 8/15/09(My old friend Max challenged me this morning to write something to accompany this photograph. It had to include the word deciduous. It was fun. )

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About Me

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at or