Friday, August 11, 2017

It's a Sign

Of all the crazy things, there's an intersection in Beaverton, Oregon (the town where I grew up) where the names of the crossing streets happen to match my husband's name and mine.

O.K., this is probably a coincidence and not proof that we were destined to get together, but it's still uncanny. Especially since you don't hear my husband's name (Murray) all that often in the United States, unless you're into binge watching Mary Tyler Moore episodes.

Even if you don't believe in using signs on streets and buildings to predict the future, they can make great writing prompts. What could you do with "Pirate's Cove," "Help Wanted," or "Rough Road"? Look around and see where random signs can take your writing.

As for me, I'm glad Murray's path crossed mine. Here's a poem for our 33rd anniversary.

The Surprise Inside the Cake*
by Linda Ferguson

We were still a couple of kids,
all dressed up like adults –
his charcoal suit with tails,
my white dress with a lace-edged train –
we had Pachelbel playing on the church piano,
boutonnieres pinned to our brothers’ lapels,
and bridesmaids holding bouquets
the same shade as their chiffon gowns.
The reception, though, was a different story –
a party in my parents’ backyard,
with my high white heels a little stained
from sinking into the soft grass.
We had a keg of beer and some
food set out on a picnic table,
plus a wedding cake with a surprise
inside that first slice. Instead of
the vanilla layers with the skim
of raspberry filling we’d ordered,
here was a silly, garish thing,
as if we’d pulled back a curtain and revealed
an out-of-town aunt with spangled fingers and a brash,
knowing laugh as big as her hat. Instead of a pale,
well-behaved pastry, this cake was flaming pink –
like the thick flamingo lipstick on a drag queen
about to step on stage or the mini-dress Barbie wore
the night she tore off for Malibu in her plastic car.
How to describe what we fed each other
with our fingers that day –
was it simply sugar and shortening or the gaudy
flavor of caramel corn and carnival rides
that its glaring hue implied? Or maybe our tongues
were touched with something else –
a hint of salt, and the essence of
a small borrowed boat setting out to sea;
maybe we opened our mouths and tasted
not the cake, but the white peaks of promise
folded into some weighty substance
we could not yet name.

*Published in The Poeming Pigeon: Poems About Food  (The Poetry Box, 2015). To order your copy of this delicious journal, which includes work by Carolyn Martin, Claudia F. Savage, Dan Raphael, Elizabeth Moscoso, Shawn Aveningo Sanders, Tricia Knoll and many others, you can click