The Escape Artist


Of course you think of Houdini.

The dark chamber all around him

hollowed in water echo and the outward

heartbeat that takes up the whole space,

takes up your space and the envelope

of electric air above you. Forget him,

he is lost. He is the man in the dream

you never recognize.


Keep something for yourself.

The last breath. A flash of the woman

who sees you turn away when the lid

closes. There are reasons

to be delivered: the long road to the market,

a green carnival tent you’ve almost forgotten,

the tin, circular sound of a hub-cap

tracing the side of a road. Learn and remember

that the summer consumes us

even as we sleep and there is nothing

pure or exact or cruel in language.


There is more. There are taxi drivers

who search for their way by streetlights,

the women made-up into an evening

who laugh at a man who’s passed them,

who can’t find his way out of a crowded room—

and furthest away from even them, three boys

who’ve ridden their bikes down the street

holding summer’s last terrible syllable. Are you

the voice that sends them

all into sleep, the someone in the dream

they do not know?


Now is the time to understand

the movement of your own

senses, the smell of mornings locked

into the memory of grass, butter burning,

purple garlic flowers shedding their last

pollen, the smell of wheat fields before

you see them. Soured milk. The rough

edge of lilac. You are waiting for the miracle?

You are waiting for the slim

left hand, for the right hand, fingers

that find their own way out of cool

confinement. You are free.



From When the Moon Knows You're Wandering