Hostetler poem prompts essay


This essay was inspired by a prompt from two sources, a poem by Sheri Hostetler titled “Instructions,” from the anthology "A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry."

The poem begins: “Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God. Find god in rhododendrons and rocks, passers-by, your cat…"

In addition, writers were given the challenge of using these nine words in a piece of writing inspired by the poem: superficial, storm, trump, walkabout, wallow, shiny, cry, cadence, fume(s).


Whatever Fits In My Pockets

Story and art by Mo Conlan

I like the idea of giving up God to find her – in the soothing purr of the cat, the cadence of her heartbeat as she insinuates herself against me on the couch. Nothing can trump the elegant wonder of Cat to prompt thoughts of the divine – unless it is to feel the divine in myself.

It’s good to think of such things as I go walkabout, decades of work behind me, unknown paths ahead. For security, I wear a many-pocketed jacket of the kind that photojournalists at The Cincinnati Post Newspaper used to wear. Made them look truly cool – ever ready to capture an image that might be etched into the world’s brain.

I fill these pockets with what I will take. I rule out the superficial – the shoulds and oughts, even the lipstick, though I will pack lotion, or find aloe plants along the way. (Though raw aloe smells terrible. )

Many shiny items that once attracted are left behind. I do wear the ring my mother gave me when I was 18. I can’t get it off and I can’t take the complexities of our relationship out of my heart.

I will carry the ring, but not wallow in loss, I tell myself. I’ve learned to be practical, so I take a rain slicker against the storms. The slicker can double as a tent under the stars – far, far from the noise and fumes of the city.

In case I need to sneeze or cry, I take a white man’s handkerchief – ironed and folded into a large square. It may be one I used to borrow from Jack, the music man who taught me how to love, how to fight fair, how to cook and to touch – body and soul.

In one of my pockets I put a magic never-ending ink pen and pad of writing paper. In another, I carry four magic never-ending tubes of paint – yellow for sunshine, red for heart, blue for sky and water and silver for moonscapes. I use my fingers as paintbrushes.

Almost ready to go. If I put the cats on a diet right now, they might fit into two pockets. I can’t leave them behind. And though I can’t fit my friends – my anam cara -- into my pockets, maybe they will go walkabout with me.

For the love of cats...

Darwin becomes an only cat...

Pets of a more peculiar sort....

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