The Magician

by Patrick Cahill

Close up of a deck of cards, photo by Arnor Ingi Juliusson
Photo by Arnor Ingi Juliusson@Unsplash

We’re gathered on a green. He stands before us, gestures, and a playing card appears in his hand. He turns it over and on its face an official license to kill, yet he can picture exemptions coded among the stars on a clear and moonless night. He turns the card again and finds a sword in his hand, its history embossed on its silver blade. Will he swallow it? We wonder what else he might have up his sleeve or under his hat. Clouds maneuver abstractions of light that flicker on the blade. He lifts the card, cuts it in two, and blood oozes along the edge, closes his eyes and on each eyelid wills a blue tattoo of the sword, a drop of blood on each sharp edge. A sleeveless assistant we’d failed to see approaches him and touches his eyes, an image of five outlined pelicans descending her upper arm. His body begins to evaporate and as it does it merges with hers. She turns and walks away, enters a stand of trees we didn’t remember being there. We wait in silence, then someone begins to clap—and now we all erupt in applause.

Patrick Cahill

Patrick Cahill’s poetry collection, The Machinery of Sleep, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2020. A new collection, Frogs in the Basement (working title), will come out in 2025. His prose and poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. His poems have twice won the Central Coast Writers Award. He is cofounder and editor of the former Ambush Review, a San Francisco-based literary and arts journal.