The Practice of Creativity

A Poem for National Poetry Month: Here, Fortune Cookie

Posted on: April 27, 2015

April has almost slid past me without a nod here to National Poetry Month. I want to correct this oversight. In honor of NPM, I am sharing a poem that was recently published in The Red Clay Review: The Literary & Arts Magazine of Central Carolina College. Every year, this literary journal solicits submissions for a themed issue. And the issue that my poem appears in is food themed. When I saw the call for submissions, I knew I wanted to submit something unique. Given that I live in the South, I figured there would be many excellent pieces extolling the wonders of Southern food traditions. I wanted to go in a different direction. So, I sat down to write about fortune cookies. A few years ago I became obsessed with fortune cookies and learning about their history. Fortune cookies are in many ways, a uniquely stylized American phenomenon (like U.S. “Chinese” food). In doing research, I discovered:


  1. Fortune cookies are not Chinese in origin.*
  2. General Tso’s famous chicken is based on a real life scholar-warrior: Zuo Zongtang (also spelled Tso Tsungtang…and “Tso” should be pronounced more along the lines of “Zuoh” or “Jaw”)
  3. There are more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. That’s more than the number of McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFC’s combined!
  4. The Powerball held on March 30, 2005 had a record number of winners, across multiple states. And, the winning numbers were all traced back to numbers found on a fortune cookie. All of the winners had visited a local Chinese restaurant at some point before the Powerball and played the numbers found on a fortune cookie.
  5. One of the largest fortune cookie factories on the West Coast is Peking Noodle, founded in 1922.


*these tidbits and more can be found in Jennifer 8. Lee’s entertaining and well-researched book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food.


I dumped out over fifty fortune cookie messages that, over the years, I had saved and began looking for ideas. Eventually, I came up with the poem below that I submitted. I like that it has a bit of an edge to it. My plan is to write several fortune cookie poems. I’ve already started work on the next one in the series.


Here, Fortune Cookie

Here, fortune cookie, here, sweet cookie
Jump into my mouth and fill me with your wisdom

I’ll listen this time, I promise
A new adventure awaits you this weekend
I thought getting a Brazilian would bring him back

Here, fortune cookie, sweet cookie
Tickle me with your crescent form

I’ll listen this time, I promise
To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it
His wife didn’t understand how much I love him
Her accusing blue eyes follow me in my dreams

Here, fortune cookie, sweet cookie
Crack me open and fill me with destiny

I’ll listen this time, I promise
If you follow it, you realize that insatiable desires don’t lead to happiness
You were right
My married boss is pretty tricky

Here, fortune cookie, sweet cookie
Wait with me while I plot her demise
so we can be free
he’ll come to love me and we will come here
and order General Tso’s chicken and beer
and we will scoop you up, sweet cookie
our ritual complete

You are right
Happiness can be achieved by using your patience

2 Responses to "A Poem for National Poetry Month: Here, Fortune Cookie"

Wow! Great poem Michele. Love “I’ll listen this time, I promise,” and the ending is so you. Congratulations.


I love your poem!

True about Fortune Cookies being a Western construct. I did not see even one fortune cookie during the six months I lived in Tianjin, China.


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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