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.

Connect with Olivia
LinkedIn: oliviathomakos
Instagram: @livoutloud__


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.