Wikimedia, CC 2.0
Source: Wikimedia, CC 2.0

Here is the latest of my short-short stories that are composites of real-life events with psychological or practical implications.

“From cell to Sam:

the greatest show on earth.”

Emily's given name was Dakota but to channel her favorite poet, she changed it to Emily. That was but one of many things she did to amplify the muse and her identity as a poet.

Emily even poured herself into the artist’s bane—marketing. Not only did she read her work at every poetry slam and open mic she could, and posted her work on poetry websites, she xeroxed and later self-published collections of her poems and read them on a "portable stage:" an upside-down 5-gallon soy sauce bucket. She set up her stage mainly on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley but also on any street studded with progressive literary foot traffic. And she kept producing, poem after poem, collection after collection.

On her deathbed, Emily felt it was all for naught. Sure, a few hundred, maybe even 1,000 people had read or heard her work. But had any remembered any of it, let alone been changed by it? And after she died and could no longer flog her work, her impact would certainly go from almost zero to zero.

Except it didn’t quite. You see, when Brigid was 12, her mother accepted a Xerox copy of Emily’s poems.handed down from the soy sauce bucket. Now, 20 years later, a decade after Emily died, Brigid was torturing herself about whether to have a baby when Emily’s poem, "From cell to Sam: the greatest show on earth.” popped into her head. She then called an international adoption agency.

The takeaway

Alas, most people’s work withers but we can be motivated even by the thought that we've planted seed. Have you planted any seeds you're proud of? Not proud of? Any you'd like to create and sow?

Bonus question: Brigid was moved to action by recalling a poem extolling the miracle of growth, from cell to person. Yet the action she chose was to go to an international adoption agency. Other than infertility, why might she have done that?

The 2nd edition of the Best of Marty Nemko is now available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at

You are reading

How To Do Life

Jobs the Robots Can't Take

Jobs that should be plentiful, even in a highly-automated world.

46 Uncommon But Useful Words

Good additions to the counselor’s vocabulary.

About to Get Fired

A transcript of the exchange between a caller and me on my radio program.