December 20, 2023

“Plucked,” A Novel in Verse Excerpt by FC’s Vera West

“Plucked,” A Novel in Verse Excerpt by FC’s Vera West
Seventeen-year-old Iza auditioned on a whim and got accepted (on a scholarship) to a creative arts prep school. Even with just a year left until she graduates, attending this school will give her the edge she needs to be a successful classical violinist and give her more options than what she currently has in the impoverished town where she grew up; but without the support of her mother getting there will be a challenge. After convincing her best friend to drive her to school, working extra shifts to save up money and having her granny forge her father’s signature on the application, Iza is finally ready to make the great escape to Everleigh. 




She has pluck, they say, 

with optimism in spades, 

surely all her dreams 

will come true. 



“Iza Jones, are you scared?” Tiara quipped. 

I’m always nervous 

until I step out on to the stage, 

until I place the bow to violin, 

then the calm washes over me; 

a balm on those tight nerves. 


“Why couldn’t Renee drive you?” 

“Wouldn’t,” I correct. 

Rene was my mother; 

Who’d forbid me from auditioning. 


Tiara laughed,  

a trinket of a sound giving away  

how insincere she was. 

Tiara was that one friend: 

who grew up on your street, 

who played with you out of convenience, 

who you knew was an asshole 

but they were your asshole 

loyal till the end, 

dependable as fuck,  

and despite it all, 

you’d grown to love them, 

that was Tiara. 


We had things in common too, 

smutty books, 

being half-white  

without actually being white, 

jamocha shakes, 

celebrity crushes, 

and big dreams; 

but that’s where our similarities frayed 

and opposites began. 


Tiara was prep where I was inner city, 

I was kind when Tiara was sharp-tongued, 

Tiara was bored when I felt intrigued, 

and her white family rejoiced  

when mine had denounced. 


I didn’t feel  

any kind of way 

about it; these things  

were what they were, 

and despite it all, 

there’s always hope, 

this audition was tangible hope; 

a reminder of who I am 

—an indisputable fact— 

and I’m claiming  

what’s been ordained mine. 


No one could stop me, 

not even my mother, 

I wouldn’t allow it. 





I grew up in the inner city, 

a midwest diamond in the rough 

that reverted back to coal  

once the automotive industry  

pulled out to pull in somewhere else; 

factory rats left scurrying 

to jobs that soon wouldn’t exist; 

my mom was one of those rats, 

always teetering on about  

how she should have relocated 

(to Hawaii) when they’d offered. 


Lucky for us, mom bought  

our beautiful craftsman 

before our financial instability 

took root, securing the perfect mask 

for how poor we were  

and how bad things would get; 

No one looks too closely at pretty things, 

they’re accepted as is. 


On the same block 

at the opposite end 

from my house lived Tiara. 


Her father was one of those 

inferior superior jerks 

who was less educated  

than he believed and only 

became bearable when  

he (or his company) 

was buzzed; my mother 

—cut from a similar cloth— 

thought he was great and 

Tiara’s mother must have 

too, because she flitted around 

him like a moth to a flame; 

enamored, but slowly burning up. 


Tiara’s mom was kind, 

with an empathetic generous spirit; 

she cooked for me when I visited, 

patting my cheek while calling me pretty, 

always gushing about  

what a good influence I was, 

what a good friend I was, 

and I ate it all alongside the delicious 

pancit she’d cook, beaming like a little sun 

because I never received praise like that. 

It’s a powerful thing to be good enough. 


So while, our moms bonded over  

spilled tea and hot coffee, 

sipping as they endearingly jabbered, 

Tiara and I bonded too; it was just that simple.  





My father was a free  

spirit turned jaded by  

circumstances sprung from  


What I mean is, 

systematic racism and oppression 

shaped his parents, and his parents’ parents, 

backwards on and on, 

unto the very beginning  

when our ancestors first 

stepped foot on this soil.  


It’s not an excuse, it’s a reason, 

sometimes parents are the way they are 

‘cause their parents were the way they were. 

That’s the generational curse: being unable 

to become something new, 

perpetually stuck being  

what our parents, intentionally or 

not, made us become.  

We’re like them because we are them. 


The good news is, 

being alike doesn’t mean identical, 

and sheer will can break the curse. 


My grandmother did the best  

she could for my father; 

I hate clichés, but this time it’s true. 

Granny was barely my age  

when she fell in love, 

got married, 

fell out of love, 

became a barber, 

flew north from  

Texas to Michigan 

and worked—eventually  

opening up the Ninth Cat. 

You see, she was the ninth 

child born and the  

barbershop her last life; 

it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason. 


I think of the child  

version of my father often. 

It makes my heart  

so full of sadness. 

If only the curse had been broken sooner, 

what a man he could have grown into. 

I’m young of course, 

not quite eighteen, 

and people will say I don’t 

understand the intricacies, 

of adult problems, but I know 

doing the right thing is ageless, 

being strong isn’t tied to brawn, 

and wisdom is afforded to all 

who seek it. 


My fate will be different, 

—I’m sure of it— 

music is my ticket out, 

my magic to finally break the curse. 



After a messy divorce from music, West fell into a torrid love affair with writing. They’ve been somewhat happily married since 2013 when her first novel was published in partnership with Schuler’s Books & Music Chapbook Press. West graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Art in Writing in 2011 with an emphasis on fiction and poetry. Since then, West has self-published a handful of novels and three collections of poems that tackle themes of love, redemption, cultural identity, social issues, and the afterlife. West resides in Michigan with her family and can often be found reheating the tea she forgot she made or reading a good book. 

#coming of age#novel in verse#plucked#vera west

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