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William Odgen Haynes

Cooking the Books

Cooking the Books

Zhuazhou: A Chinese ritual originated in the Song Dynasty (circa 1000 AD) performed on the first birthday.  The child freely chooses from an array of objects placed by the parents to predict his or her future characteristics and vocation.

On the occasion of his first birthday,
the boy was dressed in a red silk gown
and a red hat with white embroidered fish.
He crawled across the large bed
toward objects carefully placed in a single line:
Green onion, Chinese brush pen, abacus,
celery stick, book, wooden spoon, silk cloth,
coins, flower, ball.
Family members stood around the bed
in anticipation of his choice.
The father was overjoyed
when he picked the onion,
a sign of intelligence,
but he frowned as the child
next chose the wooden spoon,
signaling an able homemaker.
He was hoping for a choice of
the book, suggesting a future in the law.
In a few moments, the boy would choose again,
so the father still held out hope.
The grandfather, a proud accountant,
watched the proceedings
like a gambler at the roulette table,
and when his favorite was not chosen
he surreptitiously pushed the abacus
a bit closer to the child with his cane.

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William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan and grew up a military brat.  His book of poetry entitled Points of Interest appeared in 2012 and is available on Amazon.  He has also published nearly forty poems and short stories in literary journals and his work has been anthologized multiple times.  In a prior life he taught speech-language pathology at Auburn University and authored six major professional textbooks. 

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