NaPoWriMo – Day Thirteen

I don’t think I have ever actually had a fortune cookie… It may sound strange, but when you grow up in the middle of the countryside where nowhere delivers and the nearest takeaway requires the same length of car journey as the nearest supermarket, takeaways become something of a rarity.

Anyway, enough about me weird, rural childhood.

The prompt for today’s poem was to write a poem inspired by the idea of fortune.

A year or so ago a friend bought me a book called ‘The Encyclopaedia of Superstitions’ by Christina Hole. Part of me wants to ‘pah-poohey’ the whole idea of superstitions, but it’s the sort of book that makes you very aware of everything you do day to day that might signify bad luck. In short it can be something of a stressful read.

However, for today I decided to crack it open and see if there was an entry for fortune cookies.

There wasn’t.

Instead I found this:

Fox’s Wedding

When sudden spatters of raindrops fall while the sun is shining, country people say that somewhere a fox is being married. Why this event should cause showers is not clear, but the tradition seems to exist in many parts of the world, although the animal concerned is not always the same. In Japan and Palestine, it is the fox which celebrates then, as in England, but in souther India it is the jackal, and in Canada poultry or monkeys. Occasionally English children speak of a monkey’s birthday instead of a fox’s weeding, but this may be due to some relative who had lived in countries where monkeys are better known than foxes, rather than to native belief.

A correspondent in The Times of 19 August 1953 said that when he was a child in the West Indies, he was told that these sudden showers meant that the Devil was beating his wife.


Mythology and local traditional beliefs are fascinating things. All through my childhood I was handed down various titbits of information like ‘red sky at night shepherds’ delight, red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning’ and ‘a woman whistling and a crowing hen will bring the devil calling’. My mother and grandmother simply cannot let two knives cross and my great grandmother was  font of random superstitions, most of which I have since forgotten.

My point is, fortune and superstition are woven into life so tightly that you almost forget it’s there and even those of us determined to deny it a hold find ourselves following little rituals despite our own sensibilities.

So for today’s NaPoWriMo I have written the following:

The Black Cat On Newark Street

The black cat on Newark Street

supposedly born in May,

was only ever there

at exactly six minutes to six

on the sixth day

of each month

when the sun sort of

got stuck behind a cloud.

It would lurk around

until about seven minutes past

and then vanish

like a puff of smoke…

or a very fast black blur

down a dark alleyway.

Sometimes it would chase the magpies

in the church yard

beneath the yews.

It would prowl the graves

and when it came to the path,

was careful not to put a paw

on any of the cracks.


a strange old woman,

with birch in her button hole

did not chase the birds,

but saluted the magpies

and asked after their wives.

She collected moonwort on the heath

and kept in her pocket just in case

she ever should forget her keys,

and heaven forbid

she should ever stir the teapot

because lord knows

there was enough bickering in this family

without adding that into the mix.

She kept a rowan tree in the garden,

watched the cycles of the moon

and bought Irish stone to pave the patio.

She hated lilac,

wouldn’t allow it into the house

and when the robin arrived each winter

she left fat balls filled with seeds out

and stood guard over his nest.

‘Your Grandma is a odd one,’

my mother used to tell me.

‘She just has her funny little ways.’



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