poem07 Sep 2020 02:22 pm
Hawthorne Tree, by Virginia State Parks staff

Jennifer Bushroe


Everyone knows
you only get three wishes
—that’s the rule—
so you’ve parceled them out:
the fairies at the hawthorn tree
the witch at the wishing steps
the triple-goddess at the holy well.
 
You’ve studied the stories
you know to be specific
when making a wish
lest the lens of interpretation
skew your intention and leave
you worse off than you started.
 
So on the third day of your trip
you tie your ribbon
to the hawthorn and heart-speak
a long string of clauses
and parentheticals knotted
with dashes and semicolons
to cinch tight every loophole.
 
The long string winds into a wish-skein
for True Love—romance
the one area of your life
that is as vacant as the missing
stone in the megalithic circle
in which the hawthorn stands.
 
Satisfied, you leave the hill
with your brother, imagining
the Irish fairies already hurrying
to bring your wish to life
because it is sacred May
because you showed respect
because you hope-believe.
 
And then
eighteen days later
(three plus three plus three plus
three plus three plus three)
your mother tells you:
your brother is dead.
 
By your reckoning
the fairies could’ve protected him
—man of twenty-seven—
(three times three times three)
the wish made with a three-inch ribbon
the sacred number everywhere
and meaningful in your grief-logic.
 
But it never occurred to you
to wish for him
to wish for just
life - a long life an ongoing life an earthly life
and now you wish
you had.



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