Winner of the 2022 Grierson Verse Prize
Olivia Thomakos is an English teacher and poet from Ohio, USA. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. She is published or forthcoming in Berfrois, Dreich Magazine, Loud Coffee Press, and small leaf poetry studio among other blogs and university magazines. She is the Poetry Editor-in-Chief of the From Arthur’s Seat anthology. Olivia writes to make sense of the world around her.
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Olivia Says:I chose to write a sestina for the prompt of fragility because the structure itself is fragile. Sestinas require balanced repetition, narrative clarity, and length control to flow while obeying word repetition order. Marriage parallels this fragile structure in how it also requires repetition, clarity, and control to be successful. There are moments of structural fragmentation when the repeated words are twisted, which happens most noticeably at the end of the poem to mimic the structural breakdown of the couple’s marriage.
What You Wish For
Constantly pestered for coconut pancakes,
Spencer threw together breakfast blizzards
coated in white shavings and ice cream. Winter
weekends left his boys sheltering
from their cold father who forced prayer, whispered
before they stuffed their bellies. Legs aching
from growth spurts, the boys ached
for their mother, Lina, the Saturday pancake
designer. A Dairy Queen fiend, she first whispered
I love you to Spencer over a Mint Blizzard.
The sweethearts had married on a sweltering
spring day. Autumn stomach scooping into winter,
Lina cradled three hungry boys. By wintery
cribs, white-curtained, her rocking chair ached
under thick blankets while Spencer sheltered
in chilly silence. The truth was he hated pancakes
and children. When the three blizzard
babies were announced, his whispered
Jesus Christ was mistaken for prayer. He whispered
swears at every “Triplets!” and “This winter?
Some honeymoon!” When “strong swimmers” blitzed
into their conversations, he ached
for an escape, but Lina pleaded “Pancakes!”
Ignoring the battle flipping in his head, she’d heard
husbands take time, that newborns sheltered
in his arms would make him stay. She whispered
I love you to the boys, requested more pancakes.
Insatiable, they screamed for Spencer’s bottles all winter
while Lina moaned that her breasts ached.
Her first drive alone in months was into the blizzard
that crashed through February. Blessing her
luck at an early escape from sheltered
bed rest, Spencer packed, knees aching
from suitcases hauled down the stairs. A whisper
of doubt stopped him at the door. Winter’s
blur clouded every window; Lina’s pancakes
cold on the counter. He reached for the knob as the blizzard
pushed an officer up the porch. Car pancaked in the shelter
of a bridge, his wish granted: a life without her.