© 2022 by Roy E. Spears
The lives we spend on this old earth Are rarely spent in endless mirth But sorrows mark each passing day And heartaches cause each one to pray. Some live lives of careless ease Who grovel not on bended knees Tread proud on paths of golden stones And soon to claim their royal thrones. No such grace in me is found With fiery trials I am crowned My road of life is marked by pain Which some will view as wisdom gained. Stumbling through life's grove of sorrows one say soon—perhaps tomorrow The meaning for this lack of bliss Will answer where I went amiss.
April 7, 2022: I worked on this poem for several days, off and on, undergoing many slight revisions and completely dropping one entire paragraph from the original (see the picture below).
My inspiration for writing it has come from my own life which has seemed to be consistently marked throughout by an unusual amount of pain and loss. Why this seems to be so has often caused me to wonder “why?”
I understand, of course, that life is not a bed of roses but all of our lives are marked by a certain amount of pain, suffering, and loss. But it seems to me that there are a significant amount of people—at least viewed from my perspective—who have been born with the proverbial silver spoons in their mouths. These fortunates seem to glide through life on a cruise ship instead of the old, leaking raft spliced together with sticks, vines and branches that I’m sailing on.
One of these acquaintances of mine perfectly fits this description. Born into a normal, middle class family in Missouri, his parents stayed together until both of their deaths at relatively old age. His older brother was an emergency room physician who, though he died relatively young from cancer, he lived a wonderful life: married with many children and lived the typical doctor’s life of hard work but crowned with success and riches.
This acquaintance of mine (let’s call him Bill), older than me by a few years, has went through life relatively unscathed by the pains and sufferings most of us are seemingly predestined to endure. He never married, and though he loved a woman or two, this fact alone has proved to me to be part of the blessed, carefree life he has so greatly enjoyed.
University educated as an engineer, he chose, for whatever reason, not to pursue engineering as a career. We me in the early 1980’s when we were both banquet servers at La Paloma resort in the Tucson Foothills.
Here is just one quick example of the kind of unusually blessed life Bill has lived: he is part owner of an oil well. No kidding. When his mom and dad passed away, Bill, his brother, and a cousin or two. all inherited some land in North or South Dakota that Bill’s parents had invested in.
Bill’s cousin, from what I understand, was somewhat of a shrewd man. It just so happened that the land that Bill’s parents had purchased was sitting on oil. This cousin made a deal with an oil company to drill for oil on part of the acreage, and believe it or not, they struck the black gold. For years and years, Bill received a monthly check from the oil company for his portion of the royalties. And no doubt with the price of oil over $100 a barrel, that oil money is flowing in.
How many people do most people know who actually own a producing oil well that cuts them a check every month? Precious few, I’m sure, but Bill is one of those fortunates. And Bill is the recipient of other such blessings in his life, most inherited from his fiscally responsible parents who made some great investments in their lives that their family members benefitted from at their passing.
One thing I have learned: a person’s life in America is determined, in large part (but not always), by the kind of family they were born into. Like Bill, who was born in a loving, caring family, that baton of blessing was passed down from generation to generation.
Unfortunately, this works the other way as well: people born into broken and dysfunctional families, like I was, also seem to inherit the antithesis of a blessed family: we inherit curses instead of blessings that are then continually passed down generation by generation.
This is one reason I wrote Destiny, for it seems that there is this universal rule that governs Earth that mandates this: the life you live, for good or ill, on some important levels, is determined by your family history.
I don’t want to suggest this is a hard, set in concrete “rule.” Legions are examples of people born into, say poverty, that have risen to ranks of unimagined wealth. After all, as the old saying goes, “America is the land of opportunity,” and there are perhaps more ways to get financially ahead of in America than perhaps any other country, regardless of humble beginnings.
I’m just suggesting that there is something intertwined with “success” and family history. For another example, look at the Royal Family in England. Talk about being born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth! More like being born with a solid gold spoon studded with diamonds and rubies. The path of success is already paved for those blessed children born into such an institution marked by wisdom, lineage, wealth, opportunity, property, etc.
I also know that someone born in a terrible family can break through whatever dysfunction their family has saddled them with. It will prove to be a difficult, long and painful path, but again, legions are the examples, both present and past, that testify to this reality.
This noted, there is still that invisible thread that seems to wind through both blessed and cursed families that play such a significant part in the generational paths tread upon by the subsequent generations. Like Bill, he is simply floating on the cruise ship along the stream of blessing that his parents birthed him on enjoying the momentum of the ride.
Destiny is an exploration of this dark theme. Again, I’m not trying to write a poem that dogmatically asserts that each and every man or woman’s life is predestined to a certain result, but simply a perspective and reality that I believe is a valid one. This is one of the benefits of poetry: to explore ideas that by nature of the medium, readers understand it is the writer’s unique perspective and not necessarily holy writ.
I like writing poetry using the old school method of pencil, paper, and a handy eraser. I use my Macbook Pro or other computers when I write my short stories or lengthier writings, like my book, “Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys.”
With poetry, I’m constantly editing the lines, something I don’t do with short stories. Since some of my poems are rhymes, this takes quite a bit more work to make them sound decent than other types of writing. I certainly do not consider myself a skilled or necessarily gifted poet, but I think I can produce some half way decent poems if the right mood strikes me and I put the needed time in the effort.
And like all writing, “good writing is re-writing.” And poetry is no exception: the more time I take in editing and thinking things over, the better I think the poem comes out. This is one reason why I prefer the “old school method” of pencil/paper/eraser when I write my poems, leaving enough space between lines to make corrections/deletions/additional words above or below the particular line I’m working on.
Here is one of the two pieces of paper I wrote Destiny on, the first draft:
If you look close at the picture, you can see where I erased some of the words, substituting others in their place. I completely deleted the original fourth paragraph because it didn’t seem to flow as well as I wanted it to.
Why I included this picture is to show how important editing and rewriting is. And it fits well within the writing philosophy of Ernest Hemingway who allegedly said, “The first draft of anything is sh*t.” How true.