The Wishbones

by Dion O’Reilly


Dessicated and abandoned,
they lie on the window sill
above the kitchen sink. Each morning,
the sun shrivels the clinging flesh
as they wait
for my son to return.

He is grown now
and has not asked
to grab the other end
of that wishing stick
for many years.

From the barnyard
every few weeks,
I choose a fat cockerel
to roast for my dinner
and embedded in the flakes of flesh
I find it, the shape of a V
for Victory.

Always a surprise that magical toy
in the breast of a fowl.
It moves the wings in flying birds,
and lives above the heart.
That must mean something,
I murmur, as I hoard yet another,
lining them up in a cute
and gruesome display.

Arthur, now twenty six,
waits for hopeful emails
from employers or texts from friends,
not for the snapping
of a lucky clavicle shared
with the hands of his mother.

But how clearly I remember the ritual —
always a risk to grasp
the slender splintery paddle.
Would losing mean my heart could break?
That I would forget to fly if only in my dreams?
I’d cheat, examine it carefully,
select the promising tine
of that little fork, the one with the tell-tale
muscular lump at the jointure.
I loved the definitive snap as it broke.
I loved to win that tiny game.

has spent  much of her life on a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She studies with Ellen Bass and Danusha Leméris and attends an MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific University. A retired high school teacher, she continues to lead workshops with her former students. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Porter Gulch Review, Caesura, Rat’s Ass Review, The Sun, Redwood Coast Review, Existere Journal, and a variety of other venues. Her essay on the death of Michael Jackson was anthologized in the text Goodbye Billie Jean. She is the creator and publisher of the PMS Coloring Book.