I used to drive far away

I used to drive far away
to visit the magic shop of a real magician
a guy who knew a thing or two
about the art
he made his money selling costumes
to the street trade
to the busy moms in from the burbs
looking to dress Honoria and Quigley
for the fancy party
or for Halloween
for the school play
or an office masquerade
but his heart was in the gags and gimmicks
the coin box and the egg bag
passe-passe bottles for a song
built to tolerances that would amaze an engineer
he sold everything
from self-working gags
to grand stage illusions
but as he would be the first to tell you
the most valuable things in the store
were a plain deck of cards
and the sealed, secret names
that whispered the ways to work them
“You got to be kind of sick to slave this hard
just to copy somebody else,” he’d say
maybe so, but I know how to reach
into a pail of water,  eyes closed,
and bring forth dry whispering sand
in any color you desire
that was worth a bit of work
the colors trickle on your naked flesh
and in your eyes
dawns comprehension of what
wiser fingers might mean in love
“Keep foolin’ ‘em,” he’d say
instead of good-bye
“Don’t stop,” you say
in the flourished grip of muscle memory
“Don’t find me out,” I beg
saddened by my hand’s betrayal

—Don Whittington


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