Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Currency of Solitude

What’s the currency of solitude? A way of trading explanations for silence, verbosity for stillness, observation for freedom? Are there coins that will show me its face, or maybe an image of the forest where it lives, their metallic edges smooth from being turned colors by weather? Can I buy it with paper, with the recycled foreheads and wrists of gentle trees that used to understand me and offered me only the gentle spoon of self at four o’clock, when plans are being made and I should be lonely? Or with ribbons of something like litter, pale and a little gritty from being with the earth? Or is it lost to me forever? Can I send someone after it? a bird perhaps, like a carrier pigeon in whose fat breast the password can be tucked, in between one wing and another? A quiet child, humming an innocuous song to himself, his small hands shoved in pockets deep for bearing me endless prairies of grassy absence? A wind, one that has a compass inside it with directions to all the places I used to go to be alone? I can see it now. That face will have a needle, one that calls me into the boggy spot where joe pye weed makes friends with lost fishing lures in summer and the air smells like acorns. When I get there, I won’t hear anything but the things I choose to: a sound like moths at twilight, making friends in a game of tag under light, or one that makes me think of curtains opening into sky, with only the slightest shrug of intruding whisper there to make me lonesome for voice and touch. And when that haunting happens, when time is up and I have to come back to the rooms of the world, I’ll need a ticket back to that soft earth where I could be alone: a voucher for reclaiming my own translation of the way an afternoon can simmer into evening. Without it, I won’t be lost, but the geography I’ll know will be one where I can’t smell the stems of leaves or know how long they’ve been waiting for me to come back to them. In that place, I’ll trade shared words for business done, and almost all the words you’re reading here will tip their hats and say goodbye, lighting out for that uncrowded territory where they can sit by themselves and notice, just one more time before night falls, the shape of a moth in the fading light.

lks 2008

The Devil You Know

The Devil isn’t someone you don’t know.
He’s the killing floor for all your best desires
The place your dreams go to wither,
To drink Southern Comfort straight from the bottle,
And spend their last days hungover and scared.
He’s the excuse you make for the things you run from.
He’s the lost heirloom you were careless with
When you were young and foolish,
The one you swore as a child
You’d always take care of.
He’s in you,
And he’s in the way you see the Others
Who run your life,
Or try to.
He’s every mean teacher you ever had
Who didn’t see how sad you were
And yelled at you
Because you forgot your homework.
He’s the bully who was your friend in
The summertime,
And who went fishing with you,
Or taught you about Ollies and
The glory of skinned knees,
But who beat you up come September,
When everyone else was around to see
How tough he was.
He’s the overdue bill, the one you
Keep meaning to pay
And resent even having to deal with.
He’s the fear you have even now
Of your best
Being less
Than it should be.
The Devil is sometimes
A face in your dreams,
A blues imago with a way of smirking at you
That doesn’t quite wake you up
But gives you shadows
Under your eyes
All day.
He is also
Your leaders,
The ones who transact blood for
And pillage the wilderness for more
Of what they make us need.
Naming him
Might help you
To walk free,
To dream about the Ferris wheel in the city park
Or nothing you remember
Instead of him.
If you open up your mind
And let him come on in
And roam around,
Just bitching, insulting you,
And eating pork rinds out of the sace,
He might just ask you for directions
On down theroad.
By that time he’ll be just a goofy
Caricature of himself,
A cracked shard of what he could have been,
His shoulders slumped
In the face of all your kindness.

July 2, 2007

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Only the Sky

Only the sky
Is pretending to be still.
That soft fever
I get in these woods
Wells up blue
And slow
In my body. Its thump
Is only a piece
Of the life
It is going to be. A dead tree
Goes into its afterlife, a branch
Casting into the land's
Humming body. A bird stills
In the green hum,
And my body goes soft,
Still fevered
And slow,
Greening up into
That reach of deceiving

lks 2010

Snickers Bars

Snickers bars don’t last long when they’re in the same room with Pixie Sticks.
Snickers bars make friends with those who need them.
Snickers bars get lost in the produce aisle very easily and then get in trouble for harassing heads of cauliflower.
Snickers bars go wild on the last day of school and instigate water balloon fights in hallways.
Snickers bars get queasy on Ferris wheels but not on carousels. They like to go sit between the wooden heads of swans and move around in gentle circles.
Snickers bars mispronounce the names of cartoon characters, particularly the ones they’ve known about forever.
Snickers bars are afraid of the red pens teachers use to grade papers. They love the smell of Sharpies but not the sound of fingernails on chalkboards.
Snickers bars carry grudges for a long time and melt down into rivers of chocolate when angered or opened too quickly, spreading across slopes of classroom desks into laps and onto sheets of notebook paper. You shouldn’t mess with Snickers bars.
Snickers bars take bets on how long it will take hot glue guns to perish, useless and sealed away from craftsy tasks forever.
Snickers bars get nervous at the tardy bell and sometimes start to melt.
Snickers bars enjoy the brightness of primary colors on classroom walls and often wish their drab earth colored wrappers were red or purple.
Snickers bars love Hallowe’en because they get to travel.
Snickers bars are foolish, made up of nutty whimsy and the salt of buried acorns under oak trees. They like to be party favors but only when the crowd is young and goofy. I once carried one around in my coat pocket for a week, until my hand reached in and it was gone. Inside the lining, though, I found an orange marble. I set it down on my bedside table and there it sits, beside a chewed up pencil and a tiny pink eraser in the schoolchild shape of a butterfly.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This Shell

This shell is a silver blanket, wrinkled from travel.
This shell is like the head of a fox, a narrow triangle of clever insouciance.
This shell is a crown with broken edges. Its owner found it in a parking lot, a furl of paper with grease stains beside the fleur de lis.
This shell is a rubber stamp, an icon of ownership and approval.
This shell is a daisy, one of those big ones you see in the median of the highway, with a grainy, tousled center the shade of French’s mustard on a hotdog at a ballgame.
This shell remembers the time you went skinny dipping at Pismo Beach when you were eighteen and the moon was just past being full.
This shell has a way of catching fluorescent light and making it softer.
This shell knows what you had for breakfast, because it was sitting there on your table as you added raisins to the sweet cinnamon soup of your oatmeal.
This shell laughs a lot and was found by a child in a good mood. It needs to be around people who tell jokes.
This shell is like a statue I saw last week, a cherub standing on a pedestal in a garden, his belly round and dark in the afternoon sun.
This shell got chewed on by your Boston terrier and has a set of tooth marks embedded in it now.
This shell came to me in the middle of the night once and murmured something unintelligible to me under its breath.
This shell distracts me from doing my work with its pink luminescence.
This shell is a lava lamp waiting to brighten a very dark room with its tumbling pods of pink and blue liquid.
This shell got dropped on the kitchen floor but didn’t break. It picked up a piece of eggshell with its fine shellteeth though and they are shells of sorts together now.
This shell helps me teach because it looks like anything and everything.
This shell wants to be returned to the dunes. It’s lonely for lots of sand.
This shell puts out fires with the siren song of its contours and the momentum of its whispered wishes.
This shell resembles a Viking. It has that kind of ferocity about it, that invading soul.
This shell resists being mine although I carry it with me in my suitcase when I travel. I’ve nearly left it behind three times now, but I always remember it at the last minute.
This shell won’t pay my bills, but it would if it could.
This shell’s voice resists the kind of language we know.
This shell holds things together with its textures and edges in a way that surprises me every time I see it.
This shell is like an extension cord, a path from electricity’s source to an ear or a tool.
This shell is either a ghost or a wicked witch. I’m not sure which yet.
This shell has a shine like a Coleman lantern inside a tent.
This shell is like rust, a slow devouring of surface, a pouring of bloodtint into what used to be a mild field of plain gray metal.
This shell came from a thrift store and hasn’t been near the ocean in a long time.
This shell is Neil Young’s rusty harmonica, lost among model trains, waiting to buzz its owner’s lips again at the start of a song.
This shell is a place where something small and salty once lived.
This shell holds many stories, each of them a curve of voice and water, a trajectory of imagined seaweed and the remembered currents of fish traveling past.
This shell needs your eyes to do its job.
This shell sounds like the passing beam of a lighthouse moving muffled through banks of Atlantic fog.
This shell is the birthplace of a small mollusk.
This shell won’t tell any tales out of school.
This shell belonged to my cousin Ruth but then she gave it to me when I said I admired its shape.
This shell has an accent all its own, a pidgin burr that makes up its own words.
This shell is a paperweight, and students like to pick it up and check it out. I keep waiting for someone to drop it.
This shell is a way of seeing, a spiral of narrative continuity in the soulspace of my classroom, a harbor for writing prompts, and a way for me to lose myself in daydreams of Monterey and Cumberland Island.
This shell is a gift, a coin, a piece of currency from me to you saying: be still. Hold out your hand. This is my heart, and if you listen, you can hear it beating through the whorls of chitin, a lonesome percussion that needs no turn of phrase or metaphor to give it life.

I wrote this poem during preplanning in August of 2007 after reading a lesson plan in a book by George Hillocks, Narrative Writing, which was about using a bunch of seashells to teach figurative language. A couple of hours later, during lunch, I found in the teacher workroom a brown plastic bucket of seashells that another teacher had evidently collected over summer vacation. I may use them as part of a creative writing exercise after standardized testing is over and I am freer to do such things.
© Laura Sorrells 2007
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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