Claude Wilkinson

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