A Magician and Her Assistant (Poetry)

The bridge pins of her harp
Glimmered in the stage lights
While she fingered the strings
And breathed in the sound.

There was darkness in the room
And wet dog breath in the air.
Joanna Newsom’s holy words
Were already on their way.

She sang of a love
That was older than time,
In an ancient language
That only she understood.

I felt it through the hollow ground
As it crawled up to the surface.
Through my arms, my collarbone.
Through my wrists, my thighs.
To the bones of my back.

But my black heart could see
That her words fell short of her heart,
As they always did.

I kept getting fired or discarded.
I couldn’t love anyone that lived.
Every night I went to sleep
Hoping I wouldn’t wake up again.

I stood on the phantom bridge
Right where the herringbone turned,
Where my heart began to race,
The way it did all those magical times.

As Joanna held me close,
She asked if she was too heavy.
I gave her a wink, all smiley like.
We knew that wouldn’t be a worry,
Because she knew I had her back,
And also because she’s small.

A place to call home.
Someone who holds me up when I fall.

“The world is broken,”
She whispered into my ear,
“And you can’t fix it.”

Joanna’s voice was so soft,
It made me shiver.
I tried to fight her off,
But she was too strong.
I gave in, and she took me.
I felt like I was burning alive.
I felt like I was being reborn.

Joanna’s phantom walked beside me
Every day, from morning to night.
It made me happy and sad.
It made me scared and mad.

I wonder if she remembers how it felt,
A million miles away from now.
What she was like back then,
Who she knew,
What dreams she had.
To wake up again as the little girl
That the adults pretended she was.

The world is collapsing
Before my eyes.
Joanna’s mind was full
Of swirls and rainbow cars
As she sang songs
That only she could hear.

“I will take you away,”
Joanna said.
“We’ll go far, far away.”
And we did.

I wonder if she understands
That we were born into a circus;
A magician and her assistant
Whose job is to amuse.

We’re the clowns and they are the master,
The one that knows what’s real.
We’re the acrobats and they are the rope,
The one that ties us up.
We’re the lions and they are the cage,
The one that keeps us in.

We have to keep the show going
For the rest of our lives.

I wonder if she’s dreaming
Of all the people she’s met,
Of a place that feels like home,
And if that place is made of stars.

Would the magic stop working?
Would the illusion disappear?
Would the music fade away?
And what if the magician left,
Or got sick, or lost her voice,
And never performed again?

She can’t know how I’ve changed,
Became more like myself.
Thoughts I hold deep down in my heart,
They keep me in hell.

I am the man
Who stands alone
In a field of wildflowers,
Watching them die.

The words that move
Like stone and flame,
They carry me away
Into a broken place.

‘A Magician and Her Assistant’ by Jon Ureña

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