© 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; all of our lives are marked by a certain amount of pain, suffering, and loss. But it seems 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 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 ages. His older brother was an emergency room physician who, though he died relatively young from cancer, 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 proved to be part of the blessed, carefree life he has enjoyed.

University educated as an engineer, he chose, for whatever reason, not to pursue engineering as a career. We met in the early 1980’s while both banquet servers at La Paloma resort in Tucson.

Here is 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 land in North or South Dakota Bill’s parents had purchased.

Bill’s cousin, from what I understand, was somewhat of a shrewd man. And it just so happened the land Bill’s parents had purchased was sitting on oil. He made a deal with an oil company to drill on part of the acreage where they struck the “black gold.” For years, Bill has been receiving 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 know someone who owns a producing oil well that cuts them a check every month? Precious few, I’m sure, but Bill is one of those fortunates. And he is the recipient of other such blessings, mostly inherited from his fiscally responsible parents.

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 appears there is a universal rule which governs Earth, mandating 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”: there are more ways to get ahead in America than perhaps any other country, regardless of one’s humble beginnings.

I’m suggesting there is something intertwined with “success” and family history. For another example, look at the Royal Family in England. The path of success is already paved for those children born into such an institution marked by wisdom, lineage, wealth, opportunity, property, etc.

I also know someone born into a terrible family can break through whatever dysfunction their family has saddled them with. It will prove to be a challenging path, but legions are the examples testifying to this reality.

This noted, there is still that invisible thread which seems to wind through blessed families like Bill’s, floating on the stream of blessing provided through his parents.

Destiny is an exploration of this dark theme. Again, I’m not trying to write a poem that dogmatically asserts each and every man or woman’s life is predestined to a certain result, but a reality I believe is a valid one. This is one of the benefits of poetry: to explore ideas which, by nature of the medium, readers understand is the writer’s unique perspective and not holy writ.

I like writing poetry using the old school method of pencil, paper, and 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 gifted poet, but I think I can produce half way decent poems if the right mood strikes me and I put the needed time into the effort.

And like all writing, “good writing is re-writing.” Poetry is no exception: the more time I take in editing and thinking things over, the better the poem comes out. This is one reason I prefer the old school method of pencil/paper/eraser when I write my poems, leaving enough space between lines to make corrections, deletions, or add 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:

First draft with multiple edits of Destiny

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.