The Magician

He said he was a prestidigitator, a sleight-of-hand artist:
slight build, fingers pale and translucent
as the articulated sticks of an ivory fan;
he said he was more of a scientist than an artist.
When we picked a card, any card, from the array he presented,
our own faces looked sadly back between the swords.
He cascaded the deck from one hand to the other
until the slither blurred into a lemniscate
where we could see the history of the universe,
infinitely repeating.
He said it was all in the shuffle.

He said he was an illusionist.
He threw colored hoops upward in quick succession,
spinning them to create translucent orbs that became bubbles,
each containing its own magnificent vision of a creation myth.
They floated rapidly out of sight before we could decide
whether the images were apparitions inside them,
or an effect of light on their surfaces.
He said it was all done with mirrors.

He said all it took was practice.
He said he’d been practicing every day
for the last five hundred eighty-seven years.
He said anybody could learn how.

He said he was a member of the Houdini Society.
He climbed into the box and we locked it from the outside
and when the lid sprang open
there was no one there.

—F.J. Bergmann

Previously published in Sauce Robert (Pavement Saw Press, 2003) and New Myths.