The Magician’s Handbook
Twelve years old, heads together. Impatiently unbraiding the twisted paper fuses of a Black Cat half brick, fingers smeared with charcoal. Then: mailbox, culvert, tin can, matchbox cars exploded. We sliced open smoke bombs and bottle rockets, argued Spy vs Spy, dueled with matches. We smelled of saltpeter and sulphur and pumped the air with both fists, exactly who we dreamt of being.
The spies. Costumes, possibly dresses. Funny, mad, bold. Could have been anything. Amazing recuperative powers.
In the basement below the silversmith’s shop was a magician’s working studio. I would have sneaked down, too. When the Great War was over, the sneak sawed a woman in half. Everything changed.
The woman. Tied by wrists, ankles, and thin, pale neck, locked into a coffin, holy blessed mother.
“As an effect it has a neatness about it,” said a magician-in-residence at Imperial College’s department of surgery.
They begged to see the pretty lady dismembered live. “Watch her face closely; even she doesn’t mind! Perhaps it only tickles.” Suddenly everyone wanted a woman to be the one subjected to ropes, saws, knives, bullets. She wore less and less, smiled more and more.
He once famously invited a well-known military leader and suffragette to be the woman sawn in two. She had studied law but wasn’t allowed to practice. She had been imprisoned for shouting for voting rights for women. Imprisoned over and over again. She declined to be roped and tied, locked up and sawn in two. She knew about war.
The spies alternated winning and losing.
Some of them had feet of dazzling turquoise, or red. Landing on decks of sailing ships, they were easily captured and eaten. The English name booby was based on the Spanish slang bobo, meaning stupid.
Of all the heavens and the earth, there are no animals that live always and only in the air. We must land somewhere. At sea, few choices.
Pills, screens, couples, marathons, atoms. Things get divided, sometimes with illusions maintained. It has been a season of loss. You & I: we are still here.
Unable to escape, a magician sawed himself in half.
About the Author: Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, American Writers Review, Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others.
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Image Credit: “Harry Houdini, king of cards” Chicago : National Pr. & Eng. Co.,  Image courtesy of The Library of Congress