As with teacakes and cloudlike meringues,
in this too, my mother was expert.
Under a net of evening shade
from our two huge walnut trees,
she would sit on her old wrought-iron chair
in the hush just after supper swatting sweat bees
and pointing me in the right direction.
Among scents of wild allium
and waves of green deception,
I groped from cold to closer
to there at my sweeping palm
where were clustered three or more
of the magic charms she had seen
at least six feet away.
A whole minute might go by
as she twirled them between
her index finger and thumb
as if checking genuineness
before sending me for her Bible
with the white leather cover
and luminous Sacré-Coeur
stung with a ring of thorns
above its table of contents.
Somewhere after the Fall
but before the Resurrection, her favor
ripened from emerald to golden
in columns like verses themselves
amid Job’s patience or Solomon’s wisdom.
The first leaf, they say, bears hope;
the second, ironically, faith;
the third leaf is for love,
and a fourth holds the luck.
When there’s a fifth, even a sixth,
they are paths to money and fame.
And if ever a seventh, the finder
can count on a long life as well.
Though our chances at nature’s lottery
are figured to be only one
in ten thousand, or half those odds,
if you believe the optimists.
Still, they were hunted then harbored
in Bibles of other women
in the community too, as they had been
by their mothers and so on,
perhaps for happier marriages,
a bountiful garden, or better children.
On occasion, when I spot their fortunes now
while spraying anthills or weeding the lawn,
I sometimes imagine an endless line
of all the saintly others, like my mother,
halt from worn-out knees,
taken in their dances with cancer,
going one by one through Heaven’s
narrow gate, their winning bets below
perfectly hedged and pressed.
Issue 11, 2019, pp. 8-9