A poem by Curtis White

As a child, my mother would make me spaghetti and meatballs.

She would pile the delicious food on my plate

with a smile.

I would swirl the long winding pasta

around my fork

as though it were a circus performer,

twisting and tangling in a ribbon,

a beautiful display of agility and finesse.

But with tomato sauce on my face,

I was no performer.

I was just a kid.

She would tell me,

"Don't play with your food."

But of course I didn't listen.

Many of us didn't listen when our parents told us

"Don't play with your food."

Slurping spaghetti was a game to us,

a practice in time for us,

to see who would be glorious

in a world of imagination and


We tried to win the race,

increasing our pace

to slurp that last string.

It didn't prove anything,

but we didn't care.

Years passed and we traded our youth in

for guitar strings,

or cheese-strings,

but we stilled loved Mom's spaghetti.

Soon spaghetti turned to

TV dinners.

We had everything

and nothing

to prove,

but we didn't care.

Slurping a noodle

that led to the lips

of the prettiest girl

in school

like we were in The Lady and The Tramp,

but we were fools

to think we were anything but a bunch of chumps,

but we didn't care.

We had stopped caring.

The shoestrings

that bound us soon

tangled and tripped us.

Like the noodle mess

we tried to unwind

the past and find those lips

that lasted in our mind until

we stopped caring.

The Medusa strands of hair,

scaring us,

staring us down

in the mirror

of our soul

so that all who look upon us

are frozen in our presence,

and the silence destroys us inside,

but there's nowhere to hide.

The strands that stick out from the comb

after we brush them from our head,

flush them down the drain,

as though this is enough

to stop the pain

of having to stuff ourselves

with anti-this and anti-that

from our medicine cabinet

because we can only take

so many TV dinners

before we just can't take anymore.

The TV plays our life back at us in Technicolor

so that we don't notice the streams of people

strings of shadows

figures of think people

walking the dark lonely streets.

We are all exposed,

a noodle mess weaving and winding

through the eternal morning hours,

watching infomercials about infomercials

that tell us

what not to wear

how not to live

when good is good enough

and we eat our spaghetti

and get caught

and try to untangle.

The strings of yarn that

make up our clothing,

the fabric that holds our

bodies together,

till the moon comes o'er us,

trying to store us in its memory,

it can't hold on.

It can't hold it in.

The pain of the letting go,

the tightening of the heartstrings

when we think of all the strings

we cut,

all the connections we lost,

but for all the mending and sewing,

are we not better off knowing

that these strings never really break?

Somewhere is all of us

is that plate of spaghetti,

that we're racing to finish,

but the last string won't come,

we can't slurp it up,

it won't come untangled,

it's such an abrupt

realization that

we're still those kids,

winding our way through the lonely streets,

looking for those lips of the Lady,

while we're just the Tramp,

and our shoes make us stop,

to tie them as best we can,

but we never understand,

that we should have listened to our parent's

when they said

"Don't play with your food,"

because what they really meant was

"Don't play with your life"

and "Don't play with their heart,"

but we didn't care.

We had stopped caring.

And those strings,

that noodle mess,

that plate of spaghetti

that we eat while we watch

ourselves from a Technicolor TV

is a part of a game

we will never win

if it just stays a game.