The Ambitious Card

Magic is hard to master because magic
doesn’t exist. Houdini steamed
across the table as Vernon repeated
the trick, placed the chosen card precisely
back in the middle of the deck, slow as
pitch, open as a top hat, inches
from Houdini’s face. Two taps,
and Vernon flipped the card
off the top of the deck. He repeated it.
In the middle. Off the top.
Houdini’s public wager: no one
could perform a trick three times
and fool him. Vernon was on six
when Houdini stormed out. They say,
“Once is a trick. Twice is a lesson.”
Six times still isn’t magic, but only
because magic doesn’t exist.

The tricks work only because no one
would believe the work behind them,
that a person would practice the smallest
sleight incessantly, night after night falling
asleep with the cards in their hands.
The dealer’s grip, double-lift, undercut
shuffle control, blind-folded
with patter and glasses clinking,
thinking you have to hide your sightlines,
knowing you must misdirect because
if for one moment they see the wrong angle
the spell is broken, the night disenchanted.

I look over my reading at you reading
a book about the social life of bees,
your legs extended, arch of right foot rubbing
softly the top of the left, a particular whisper
you think is silent but I know as the secret
sound of home. Seventeen years,
and the things we now know.
The awe-inspired effort, wonder-woven work,
abracadabra of each breaking dawn breaking
on you. We have woken to this 6,000 times.
Here – show me again.