Why do bees hum?

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from https://www.pinterest.com/source/facebook.com/

because they don’t know the words.

 

  • Turn today’s writing over to the universe. Visit: http://random-ize.com/ This site offers:
    • a list randomizer (which might be good for making a poem)
    • a list picker (in case you can’t name your baby or pick a number)
    • random English words (such as finespun, sveltest, sternly and untanned)
    • and as many random jokes as you can stand

 

Sunday’s Child

IMG_8464It is winter, and the language exchange in the Home Depot parking lot continues. We talk about Trump’s politics, the Spring-like weather that has arrived for our class time (though there will be rain the rest of the week), what we had for dinner, what we did on Sunday.

Ariel wants to practice the seasons in English. We learn them and drill on them for a half an hour, mixing these new words with days of the week, months, colors, and questions to make sure he remembers the words. He does.

It is the Monday of midterms and the guys ask, “When will your English-speaking students join us?” I reply, “No puedo adviniar.” (I am not able to guess, predict, divine the answer to this.) And, this is one of the things I love about acquiring a new language.

Before knowing this verb in Spanish, I would utter only: “I don’t know.”

I go on quizzing: “Verano?” “Yes, summer.” “Azul? Okay, blue.” “Invierno?” “Right, winter.” “Viernes?” “Yes, Friday.”

I think about how I was born on Sunday, in the US, in California, in the desert;  I know these are forces that have shaped the happiness and fortune in my life. I say the “Monday’s Child” rhyme out, in English in nearly the same singing way I offered “Roses are red” in a Valentine’s Day lesson.

Monday’s child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go,

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

“Monday’s Child” is a fortune-telling song to predict a child’s character based on the day of the week of her birth. In addition to the day of the week, humans look for astrology, numerology, graphology, palmistry, tarot, crystal balls, runes, tea leaves, ouija boards, pendulums, scrying mirrors, even a magic 8 ball to lend us wisdom into the universe, to help us know more than we do, to divine.

  • What prophets, soothsayers, clairvoyants, seers, or oracles might inform your story?

This Little Piggy and Other Superstitions

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Fontana del Porcellino pavilion with projections on the cement

In Florence, there is a bronze boar.

Rumor has it, if you rub the piggy’s proboscis, you are certain to return to the fair city.

Another superstition particular to this porcine effigy involves putting a coin into the piglet’s mouth; as it falls into the grate, you can make a wish.

Some believe that rubbing the hog’s snout will bring a male son.

Because of the threat of fertility, I was uncertain whether I should rub for the promise of a return. In fact, I waited until the last day of our visit to finally approach the swine statue.

I am intrigued by superstitions. Here are five ways of looking at Florence through superstition:

  1. A neighbor will warn you not to bother knocking on wood. Instead, touch iron (or one’s own testicles, or one’s own breasts, if female).
  2. The wild taxi driver will ardently suggest you watch out for black cats. Even while driving, pull over and wait, however long it takes, for another driver to cross these felines’ paths.
  3. An intoxicated man at a bar might insist that posing the pinkie and index finger like devil horns can: 1. Defend against the evil eye. 2. Curse an enemy. 3. Signify infidelity. (You will not know how to translate his meaning when he uses this sign minutes later.)
  4. In a tall building, you are likely to learn the Italian seventeen is like the American thirteen: unlucky.
  5. A waiter is certain to inform you in certain terms that thirteen is lucky, unless you sit down to a table with twelve other people (as in the Last Supper); then one of the diners is certain to betray you. (The Real Housewives of Anywhere should take this into consideration.

Consider the following lines from the beginning of Malcolm Glass’s poem “Superstitions:”

I write these words on the twenty-seventh

page of my notebook, ensuring my words

safe passage and ready readers. In my lapel

I wear bloodroot to ward away broken

mirrors and my image splintered on tile.

What This Year Will Be Like

Photos from March in Sacramento, January 21, 2017

I have a poem-a-day book; it is named 365 Poems for Every Occasion. When I am looking for a fortune or a horoscope—some forecast—I search for meaning in the poem for the day. Yesterday’s poem was William Stafford’s “Once in the 40s.” Before reading the piece, I wonder whether 40s refers to temperature, the 1940s, or middle age. After reading, I know it aptly fits all of these possibilities.

We were alone one night on a long road in Montana.

This was in winter, a big night, far to the stars.

We had hitched, my wife and I, and left our ride at

a crossing to go on. Tired and cold—but

brave—we trudged along. This, we said,

was our life, watched over, allowed to go

where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time

when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find

a night like this, whatever we had to give,

and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/once-40s

I mosey through the book as if it is a bustling farmers’ market, noticing what is in season. I meet each page as a tourist rapt in her adventure. January’s themes center on new starts and cold and dreams and hard-won joy. I quietly wonder how the editors could have known what this month would be like.

When I receive a calendar, I look first for the emblem depicting July, my birth month. My 2017 calendar: Goats in Trees features three goats and the legs of two others in stick of a tree. The part of me craving prescience, some prediction for what to expect for the month makes me compare my month’s ungenerous number of goats to, for example, January’s single specimen or June’s ample display of a tree appointed with more than nine billies and nannies and a herd of nearly twenty (eighteen) below. But who’s counting? And does their color matter?

My jealous heart still weighing my fortunes, I note that the July chapter of my poem-a-day collection is equally relevant to this January’s presidential inauguration and the Women’s March (on Washington, on Sacramento, and more). Independence Day yields half dozen poems with America in their titles.

My travels in Europe over winter break, in the looming shadow of a Trump presidency, yielded more questions, comments, and criticism about America than other travels have. I have no answers. I look to tomorrow’s poem: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream within a Dream.”

There is little as unpredictable as being a tourist. Poe ends the poem with the relevant question: Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?

Beware of the Red-Breasted Bird

pajaro

Miguel, at the posada, told me about this red-breasted bird that is found in Oaxaca. It is a small bird that supposedly can determine a person’s destiny. If the bird shows you its red chest with its wings spread wide or faces you, this is good fortune.

However, it if turns its back on you, you’re dead. Dead.

If it rolls on the ground before you, watch out!  You may be hit by a bus as his friend was. But at least you will avoid death.

I told Miguel to stop scaring me that I would have to close my eyes as I strolled around the park. He said that I’m healthy. I could take on a bus if the bird decides I have to.

Prosperity Plate

new years prosperityI grew up in a family that bred, raised, and raced Thoroughbreds. It was a miserable family business that taught me, from an early age, about the disaster that can follow hard-working people.

I cannot remember the chronology of our failures, but it is hard to forget the register of despair: the breach birth miscarriage, the colt with pneumonia, the filly who broke her leg before she broke her maiden, her sister who needed electrolytes because she could not sweat, the trips to the breeders that yielded no foal, the horse that died under the care of a neighbor while we were on vacation. I could go on and on, but one more…

Trying a different approach, we decided to partner with our trainer, Lalo, on a champion charger. Two months of losses later, Lalo respectfully requested to buy back our share for the misfortune we’d brought to the gelding’s career.

There are all sorts of cultural recipes for success at the turn of the new year:

One of my Chinese friends will not sweep at this time of year for fear of brushing away luck.

My mother says we must pair fish (usually kippers) and twelve grapes with our tipple.

Others have faith in the fortune of black-eyed peas.

Part of me doubts that anything could be the antidote to our unlucky lot. The other part of me chokes down a smoked salmon, grape, and black-eyed pea sandwich at the stroke of midnight.

Zoltar Speaks

zoltarI was thinking the other day about how the word “superstitious” has a negative connotation.  Its synonyms are: “gullible,” apprehensive,” and “fearful.” I don’t think I fit these descriptions, but I would never deny paying attention to the fortune promised by my word of the day calendar, the happiness I find when I am open to happenstance, the products of providence, and the delightful surprises of serendipity, kismet, and charms.

I put a dollar into the Zoltar machine, and I was delighted when Zoltar spoke.  His handsome voice warned: “He who laughs last thinks slowest.”  As fast as I could, I guffawed as Zoltar produced a ticket forecasting my fate.

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