I Listen for Stories


I listen for stories.
That’s what I do.

There was this old Black woman, see.
We met when I was in college.
During my vaguely spiritual phase.
(It was Zen Buddhism next, but I digress.)

She was a neighborhood fortune teller,
Worked out of her living room.
Maggie the fortune teller.

She told mine with cards,
And lifelines and mumbo-jumbo.
She had me figured out.
I was the foolish white boy
Who would give her money
To know the unknowable.

That guy was so dumb.

I loved her, I think. A little.

She knew it, too.


I was a bare-footed pilgrim,

walking a new but dusty trail,

And she was an unknowing signpost

One I thought would show me the way.


She didn’t know that. I was just a mark to her.

But it thrilled me,

To have someone flatteringly reveal

Things I hadn’t figured out:

Who I was, what I would be,

Where I would go, who I would

Where the dangers lurked.

Part of me knew it was a con.

I didn’t care.

I don’t remember any of her patter,

And look at my younger self’s

Puppy-like innocence

With a shake of the head, tolerance.

It reminds me I was once young enough

To be such a fool,

An probably will be one again.

There were days and years after that

With a million unintended consequences,

Deaths and loss and births

And suffering and pain and bills and the flu, and yes,

Ineffable joys—none that Maggie foretold.

But, oh, what I would give

To inhabit that boy again, for even an hour,

And see the world afresh, to just believe

And see the future as something
 hopeful, knowable,

 once more that it had a place for me.

©Hemmingplay 2016

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