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.
Instead I found this:
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.’