Backyard Wishing Well
The wishing well my Father built,
painted to match our house,
with a bucket on a rope,
heard wishes and secrets
of friends, relatives, and neighbors
who came and returned
with more friends. Sometimes
we saw them from the window
tossing over their shoulders
or in an underhanded flickering arc.
They tossed for trips and boats,
new houses and cars, for Martha’s recovery,
Ben’s safety, for boyfriends, girlfriends,
prom dates, periods, rings. They wanted
beauty, first place, a better job. They wanted
to win the lottery, to win the war. Some
closed their eyes, kissed their coins,
and didn’t tell their wishes. They tossed
for novelty, for chance, for romantic charm.
When the well went dry, my father went down
to make repairs, dig deeper, but water
didn’t return. Only a trickle kept the ground wet.
After that, he rescued fouled balls, a lost ring,
and our cat, meowing from a squat at the bottom,
but we kept on wishing and tossing while the coins
arched and stacked and sank into the mud.
I slouched against her,
sagged into her skirt folds
to pout or hide from uncles
who rubbed whiskers on my cheeks.
I leaned into her to hide
a missing tooth, a broken
nose that healed crooked,
a line of stitches on my forehead.
On bus rides, I huddled
under her arm and listened
to the bus door hiss each time
someone entered until I napped.
Saturdays at the Bakery
The couple picked a bagel
and an oatmeal cookie larger
than a splayed hand. Coffee.
One endless cup, steaming
its notes around them
like a harbor fog while they
stared through the window
to watch the spill
of the gumball’s spiky seeds
or the flutter of white
and pink tree blossoms.
They weren’t headed
to a black tie fundraiser
at the Hilton, weren’t
planning an Alaska cruise
or a trip to Miorca.
The cookie, the bagel,
the coffee, the window
Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, and The Silence of Red Glass. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al. She co-edits I-70 Review.