Fortune’s Cookies

920x920A friend recently sent me an upbeat, effortless Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919) poem that I immediately liked. And then immediately didn’t know if I liked.

The poem is from Ferlinghetti’s record-breaking “A Coney Island State of Mind,” which was published in 1955 and sold over a million copies in nine different languages.  The poet’s life story is worth reading. He is an orphan, veteran, journalist, world traveller, publisher (he was the first to publish “Howl“), painter, political activist and still-active ninety-something-year-old.

Except for a few poems, Ferlinghetti’s pieces in “Coney” don’t have titles. Instead the poems are numbered, which at first makes them feel like parts that must come together to reveal a larger puzzle. But, they don’t. Each poem speaks with complete independence; some could even fall under today’s soup du jour genre of flash fiction.

The poem below is certainly narrative and draws a full circle. My only problem with it is the introduction of a character named “Molly,” about whom the poem is ultimately about. But, if only Molly didn’t make an appearance. Then the poem could be more fully about fortune’s cookies, and a phrase like that deserves a poem all to its own.


has its cookies to give out
which is a good thing
since its been a long time since
that summer in Brooklyn
when they closed off the street
one hot day
and the

turned on their hoses
and all the kids ran out in it
in the middle of the street
and there were
maybe a couple dozen of us
out there
with the water squirting up
to the
and all over
there was maybe only six of us
kids altogether
running around in our
barefeet and birthday
and I remember Molly but then
the firemen stopped squirting their hoses
all of a sudden and went
back in
their firehouse
started playing pinochle again
just as if nothing
had ever
while I remember Molly

looked at me and

ran in

because I guess really we were the only ones there

Due to technical constraints, the formatting of the poem cannot be shown here, but it is essential. Please click here to see the piece as Ferlinghetti wanted you to see it. This article is part of my ongoing collaboration with Zeteo Journal.

Photo credit: John O’Hara

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