14. The Poet

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Sarah made her way through the hordes of shoppers ambling around the Negro street market. Along Jackson Avenue, women made their rounds picking out fresh breads, vegetables, and small cuts of meat for supper. Friends and acquaintances gathered just about anywhere in the street to chit-chat, laugh and gripe about work.

Every shop was alive with patrons coming and going. The sidewalks were lined with vendors selling everything from apples to yo-yos. Some operated large setups of sprawling tables, complete with awnings and signage. Others manned smaller stations made simply of wooden boards resting on overturned whiskey barrels. As people roamed around, vendors hollered out their goods and prices, hands cupped around their mouths for extra intensity.

"Fresh popcorn here! Come get it while it's hot!"

"Tin cups, copper pots. We have plates and more."

It was around one-thirty when Sarah passed Richie's Diner and started to cross the street. The lunchtime smells of fried chicken and coffee tempted her to turn around.

A bell clanging from behind sent Sarah's heart flying, and she quickly stepped aside, making room for a vendor pedaling a reverse tricycle with one spoked wheel in the rear and a big metal trunk in front of the handle-bars. The lettering on the side of the trunk boasted, "Ice Cream For Sale! Fresh Fruit Juice!" The man gave Sarah a wink and the bell another jangle as he cycled past.

Everywhere Sarah went, she felt men's eyes linger on her cocoa-brown skin like the warm kiss of the sun and it always surprised her. At five foot eight, she didn't really consider herself pretty. Her face seemed awfully plump, her nose flat as a hotcake, and her lips way too skinny. Even now, covered in a pretty ankle-length white dress, she felt like an ugly duckling. Like the one in the fairy tale ... by Hans Christian Andersen.

Sarah strolled along the street, looking over the various tables and crates of merchandise. Over her shoulder, she carried a handmade shopping bag fashioned from a burlap sack and two rope straps. She wasn't a regular at the street market, so most merchants greeted her with a polite smile or nod or simply called out their goods for sale.

"Town maps here! Get your town maps here!"

"No thank you," Sara said with a faint smile before continuing on her way. She wasn't really looking for anything in particular. Right now, the street market was simply an escape to get away from life's frustrations. A place to clear her mind.

Sarah stopped at the corner. Taking a step back, she leaned against the red brick face of the building behind her. She looked around at the throng of shoppers, scurrying about like mice in a hayfield, before landing her gaze on a bearded merchant, handing a jar of preserves to a pretty colored woman.

"Did you make these?" the woman asked, gesturing at the collection of jarred preserves on the farmhouse table between them.

"Oh no," said the bearded man with a whimsical laugh. "My wife. Her favorite is the cinnamon apple." He tapped the jar in the woman's hand. "It was her great grandmother's homemade recipe. She used to jar fruit for a plantation down in Georgia. Got really good at it. She passed all her recipes down to her children and they passed it down to their children. Her owners, they were white, but they treated her kindly. Not like other masters who treated their slaves like animals. Her family was one of the lucky ones. They never got broken up like mine. My parents were sold off when they were still wee little. Not even old enough to talk." His voice trailed off.

Sarah's heart slid down a canyon after hearing the merchant's story. She dipped a hand into her shopping bag and pulled out a well-worn notepad and pencil. She opened the notepad and flipped through several pages of writing until she reached a blank page and then started scribbling away:

Cinnamon Apple Preserves
I want to give my love to my children,
But often they're too far away,
My arms can't reach them in the field,
Where they work and toil and hardly break.

When they're done, they come sit by me,
I give them bits of apple,
And sweet dollops of cream,
A special treat for my sweethearts.

They'll have their own children one day,
And I'd like to feed them apples too,
Dipped in cinnamon, dropped in a jar,
Apple preserves, for you.

"What are you writing there?" came a baritone voice.

Sarah's head snapped up from the page, and a small gasp escaped her lips.

Author's Note

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Author's Note

This is one of my fa-vo-rite chapters for Sarah because she gets to showcase her poetry talents for the first time. As you'll see in upcoming chapters, Sarah is an extremely talented poet.

In fact, I have 15 poems total written from the time Sarah was a child until adulthood, but only two poems will appear and play a significant role in this story. For one of these two poems, I'm having a musical arrangement (piano, cello, violin, harmonica) created that will debut exclusively here on Wattpad so please stay tuned.

After all, my goal is to keep you rockstar readers thrilled to the very end. I'l do my best to live up to that commitment.

Behind the Scenes:

Everything about this scene is accurate with one intentional omission. Street markets back in the 1900's were often dirty places, full of litter and the smell of horse crap and rotting garbage. I left those things out because they didn't really add value to the scene. But if there's a similar scene where these elements do add value (i.e. to establish a a crappy mood, excuse the pun), then I would include them.

This chapter and the next one will be combined in the novelized version of this story. Here on Wattpad, I'm trying to keep the chapters shorter.

Well, that's all I got for now.

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