Notes from the Shack

The shack exists, the shack exists, cedar and steel, dream and demons test their weight on its squeaky floor when I’m not in there making a mess of language and trying to find my way back to a breath taken between finishing one poem and entering another.

I returned to Juneau in fall 2010 and was blessed with a few weeks of dry weather before the clouds descended upon our seaside hideout. The shack has been nearly reclaimed by the salmonberry thicket that holds up the steep bluff. In this part of the world it is not uncommon for unmaintained structures to be swallowed up by the moss, the rot, the rain. Having resurrected the shack from a similar state years ago I am determined not to allow such a thing to happen again so I set to work with a pair of shears and a weed whip to once again clear the path to the shack. Judging by the head high cow parsnip flowers, now papery dry and raining seed heads upon the knee high buttercup tangle, it has been a dry summer. Inevitably though, we welcomed September with a day of record rainfall and while the shack and its patchwork roof and siding remained dry inside, there was a small flood from poor grading and ground saturation in the basement at the top of the trail.

During my time away it appears the shack has served as itinerant home to several birds, nest materials line the bookshelf and windowsills, a double kayak so long that a friend has removed the bottom of two planks on the door so that the nose of the boat sticks out through the closed door. The door never closed very well anyway, it was forever sabotaged by hemlock planks that would swell and contract with the weather. I figure this door modification can be rigged to serve as a dog door once I take the plunge and move into the shack, making this crooked little shelter by the sea my home for a short time during the arrival of winter.


The Yab-Yum shack is my word temple. Is my crooked studio on the beach which I raised with salvaged lumber and materials gathered from around town where people didn’t need or want them any more. For some time I could find no poems, so instead I became a gatherer of objects. Nothing precious, quite the opposite actually, mostly refuse, driftwood, rocks, drifted pieces of lumber, glass net floats, fishing lures, wild plants I’d hope to transplant in my yard. I jokingly said that I spent a year and a half resurrecting this shack so I’d have a place to get away to and write, but in that year and a half I spent more time driving nails and double checking calculations and realizing how poor a carpenter I was than I did writing.

I am writing again and this turtle blood is evidence of the places I’ve been, the memory stones I’ve turned over and the glimpses of things underneath. I hope you can walk away from this page feeling a bit more calm and assured that there is time in this life to sit in stillness and silence and hear what speaks.


a home for poems

a word temple

though crooked

never built quite right

not a reflection of the poems

written within


when the wind’s just right

old marine fuel

gasoline and two cycle oil

rises out of the floor

ghosts of this shack’s

former life






someday i will be crooked

able to stand upright

in this doorway

i once had to duck through

door frame

an awkward parallelogram

sloppy cuts with

dull saw

when it’s raining

the door won’t close

hemlock planks swollen and stubborn

when it’s cold and dry

the door swings open


spirits of yabyum

go wandering

read more poems from the shack, to be featured in the forthcoming collection, What I learned from the Shack.

7 thoughts on “Notes from the Shack

  1. hey matt, thanks for checking out my words, good to hear from you outside of the forwarded email sphere, i’ll check out your pages today.

  2. hey jonas,
    i support rupert murdoch over at myspace. check out my site.
    i like your poetry. it’s good.
    i have a few blogs and essays, poems at my site, if your interested>

  3. you are deeper than I am…but I taught you well to listen to your heart. I am envious of your rich simple life, but don’t think the other half of my pair would be happy/let me go there…

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