The other day I picked up a copy of “O” (or is it Oprah? I have no idea…). I try not to buy magazines unless I’m going to subscribe. They practically give subscriptions away if you’ll commit to a year or two, so spending $5.00 on one issue always seems silly, but extravagant, which is exactly why it happens sometimes. My point is: I just happened to pick up the poetry issue. Did you know that I wrote poetry? Wrote in the very past tense. I stopped writing poems my senior year of college. I spent that year in an utter funk and absolutely panicking about graduation. I certainly did not have my shit together that year.
I don’t believe in Fate. Capital ‘F’ Fate, is just too much for me to believe in. It seems to deny the power of choice. I chose to stop writing. I chose to drink too much. I chose to ignore my looming graduation date. I chose to wallow in my fear. I chose not to ask for help when I knew I was drowning. Fate didn’t guide me to that place. It wasn’t “meant” to be. I chose and I still choose. I chose to spend that $5.00 because I wanted a little something fun. So when I got home and saw that it was the poetry issue I thought “huh, isn’t that interesting?”. I picked up that particular issue as I am working, struggling a bit, back into a writing habit. Fate? Fate?! Are you sure?
Perhaps I can believe in lowercase fate. The little things that guide you. That provide itty, bitty uplifting moments. That nudge you towards the right path.
I choose to believe in that.
Here’s one of the last poems I wrote and had published in my college literary journal. It’s a sestina, so you will see that the last word of each stanza repeats in a specific pattern. That limitation actually made it a lot of fun to write and see where it would all go. So, here it is:
In third grade we made rolls in class,
not just yeasty bread, but warm gush cinnamon
ones withour children hands.
The same year we made plaster prints
of those hands and velvet snakes
as gifts for Father’s Day.
We stopped going to church every Sunday
and sang “America the Beautiful” inc lass.
At the school fair we bough wriggling ten-cent plastic snakes.
Before we thought to bring cinnamon
for applesauce Deluxe, we learned orange hand prints
in windows meant Helping Hands.
Curious that a stranger would give us a hand
if a stranger ever offered us a ride on a rainy day.
That year they took our fingerprints
in case we were ever “lost”. In class
we read about voyagers returning with cinnamon
and did story problems in math. If Adam bought six snakes
and gave one to Tom how many snakes
would Adam have? Before our hands
could write cursive we had cinnamon
Jolly Ranchers from the gas station every day
after we learned about coins in class.
Before I learned my handprint
could make a baby’s footprint
with a little steam snaked
on the windows, my class
was taught by a woman with witch hands
(if you saw her on Halloween, not just any day
you would know). We sculpted cinnamon
rolls that left our hair full of cinnamon
scent, each a distinct child’s fingerprint.
My teacher thought I was ill and sent me home that day,
she sent my brother to snake
his way home with more than one in his hands
after he finished class.
That day we made rolls in class,
using our children hands to print
cinnamon memories woven through like snakes.