|San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico - photo by Wilda Morris|
Often when, as a child, I would say, “I wish . . . , my grandmother would reply, “If wishes were fishes, we’d have a fish fry.” She wasn’t belittling my wishes, exactly, but she was suggesting that the particular wish probably would not be fulfilled.
We spent a lot of warm evenings on the front porch (no air conditioning to cool the house in those days). It was traditional to make a wish on the first star. Perhaps it was the fish-fry saying that led me to often wish for something very small and practical (even new socks or underwear!) instead of a beautiful new doll or bicycle which I knew we could not afford.
It is traditional, at least in the U.S., to make a wish when blowing out the candles on your birthday cake. I was told as a child that if it took you three attempts to blow all the candles out, it would be three years before your wish came true.
During this holiday season, children everywhere are making wishes about the gifts they hope to receive. Some tell their wishes to Santa Claus. In Mexico, I watched the Three Kings ride into San Miguel de Allende on horseback and take seats in front of the parroquia (parish church). By the time they arrived, there was a long line of children waiting for a whisper to one of the kings what they wish to receive on Three Kings Day. Another Mexican tradition I witnessed is to write your wishes on a piece of paper and tie the paper to a helium balloon. Release it with confidence that the breeze will blow it to the Three Kings.
Around the world,
there are people wishing (and praying) for peace, for food for themselves and their children, for a warm place to sleep. While some children wish for snow days when they don't have to go to school, other children wish they could go to school and get a good education. Others are wishing for a bigger car, a better maidservant or valet, a bigger yacht. What are you wishing?
I suspect that one might say that to wish is to be human (or “to be human is to wish”). I’m sure virtually everyone voices wishes sometimes.
Several years ago, I wrote a poem about my dad making a wish when he was in the hospital with Parkinson’s Disease.
Two days in the seventies,
then heavy rain,
and grass has turned
so green even Dad notices
the change outside his window.
I wish I could get up
and walk, he says.
I wish I could float in the sky.
How many more wishes
lie beneath his quiet
demeanor, his patient waiting
for help or death?
He regrets he can’t help
Mother to the commode.
He hesitates to eat his whole meal
at the nursing home, for fear
someone else won’t get enough.
And when I say, I’ll get
a wash cloth and wash
your face, he asks,
Are there plenty of wash cloths?
I wish he could still walk,
still wash his own face.
My other wish—to learn
the spirit of generosity he models.
~ Wilda Morris
In the poem which follows, Nina Corwin calls upon myth, folktale, and literature as she explores wishes. [Note: we usually do not publish poems with this many lines.]
The Genie and the Albatross
i. Somehow your longed-for genie appears –
Persian rug, poof of smoke, three wishes all.
What began as a leisurely amble down
an empty stretch of beach fast-forwards
through treasure-chest fictions to a grim medley
of opportunities squandered,
the folly and the albatross of unearned options.
The camera pans across the long faces of those
who failed to look both ways before wishing.
You see a preview of Cinderella in the ever-after
sequel of bad sex and royal drudgery, then Midas,
with his daughter waxing catatonic-gold.
And wide-eyed Dorothy who wastes a wish
on a harebrained, opium-filled adventure chasing
something she had on her feet all along.
ii. The kids on the corner weigh in
on the matter, fat possibility meeting slender strategy
under the stop sign at Washington and Abeline.
Someone always wants to live forever but another
cautions of ending up like her fussy old prune
of a grandmother and everyone realizes this
could be harder than first imagined.
The son of the preacher hedges his bets, wishing
for every child the toys and treasure he wants
for himself. The scrawny kid cooks up fantasies
of schoolyard bullies doubled over with loud
and embarrassing gastric disturbances, while
the wistful one just wishes her mother wouldn’t
be so unhappy all the time. Already entrepreneurial,
the son of the banker proposes a wish for ten more
wishes. But the girl with the coke-bottle glasses,
who speaks with the authority that spectacles bestow,
warns in the direst terms against running afoul
of the good will of the wishing gods.
your knees begin to buckle
with the heft of them. Wary of any wishful thinking
that might come out wrong, the mutinous whispers
of id against superego, you grow vigilant
against the sighing, I wish I knew what
to wish, and then you’re down to two. Then one
and none the better for it. In idle hours, the image
of albatross flits across your mental screen.
But that’s another fiction, one you slept through
back in high school. Probably failed that test too.
Either way, you’re up to your neck in its hot,
clammy feathers; the unmistakable reek of dead bird
reminding you there are things we aren’t meant to have
our way with. So you rent your wishes a box
in a bank vault. Folding them carefully, you lay them
inside. Back on the street, you give the key
to an unsuspecting stranger, a certain je ne sais quoi
of longing still sticking to your fingers.
~ Nina Corwin
Nina Corwin, “The Genie and the Albatross” from The Uncertainty of Maps. Used with permission of the author.
The December Challenge:
The challenge for this month is a poem on the theme of a wish or wishes. Your poem may be literal or metaphoric, serious or humorous. It can be for children or for adults. It can be about a specific wish or about wishing in general. Be creative! Note that the blog format does not accommodate shaped poems or long lines; if a poem has long lines, they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print. Note, too, that long poems are at a disadvantage.
Poems could be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed. Submit your poem by December 17. I was traveling on December 1, and didn’t get the challenge posted on the first, so the deadline is later in the month than usual.
1-Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles.
3-Whether you put your poem in the body of your email or in an attachment, please put your submission in this order:
Publication data if your poem was previously published
A brief third-person bio
Your email address – it saves me a lot of work if you put your email address at the end of your submission.
4-Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. No colored type. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.
5-You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem.
6-The deadline is midnight, Central Time Zone, December 17. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards. Winners are published on this blog.
7-Please don’t stray too from “family-friendly” language (some children and teens read this blog).
8- No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published.
9-The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.
10-Decision of the judge or judges is final.
11-If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.
12-Send one poem only.
How to Submit Your Poem:
1-Send your poem to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). The poem must respond in some way to the specific challenge for the month.
2-Put “December Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME in the subject line of your email.
3-Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win at the end of the poem.
4-Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment or both (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Put everything in the order listed above.
6-Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of punctuation in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However, I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.
Poems shorter than 40 lines are preferred.
Nina Corwin is the author of two books and three chapbooks of poetry, including The Uncertainty of Maps (2011) and Dear Future (2017). Her poetry has appeared in From the Fishouse, Drunken Boat, Forklift OH, Harvard Review, Hotel Amerika, New Ohio Review, Verse, and numerous anthologies. Corwin, nominated for the Best of the Net & twice for the Pushcart Prize, was a founding editor of Fifth Wednesday Journal and curator of the literary series at Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery. In daytime hours, she is a psychotherapist known for her work on behalf of victims of violence.
Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has published numerous poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including The Ocotillo Review, Rockford Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Modern Haiku, and Journal of Modern Poetry. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. She has published two books of poetry, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant (RWG Press) and Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Books).
Poets retain copyright for their own poems.
© Wilda Morris