Birthday Party Magician
Mary Quade

The trick depends on subtlety and suddenness,
a year turning into the next, the universe
expanding—the illusion, not change, but things
staying the same.
                          Inside his black jacket,
his body lingers, as if off stage, a dressing room
for colored squares, ropes, the harnessed dove. At what
age will we begin to disbelieve, will we leave
our silk hat, vaguely aware?
                                        Inside his sleeve, a renaissance;
a device, brutally simple, keeps the dove in place, waiting
for his hand, the feint of flame obscuring
wings’ release. The rabbit abides inside its chamber.
                                                                           He pulls
an endless silent ribbon from his mouth,
a white confession: The wand
is just a kind of stick.

                                But we have given up
our dexterous guessing. Our ears tire
of bearing coins. We are balloons, penetrated by pins,
                Perfidious thin air
out of which it all appears—
                                     we want
our boxes opening to nice gifts. We want
our cake—the moment when he takes the jacket off—
the lining flecked with feathers, droppings—and
turns himself into a man.


Mary Quade’s collection Guide to Native Beasts won the 2003 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Her poems have appeared most recently in Black Warrior Review, AGNI’s online magazine, Crab Orchard Review, and The Massachusetts Review. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio.


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