21 March 2007

Lynda Hull

[from Lynda Hull's Collected Poems, 2006]

Magical Thinking

A woman, after an absence of many years, returns
     to her old neighborhood and finds it a little more
         burned, more abandoned. Through rooftop aerials

the stadium’s still visible where the boys of summer
     spun across the diamond and some nights she’d hear
         strikes and pop flies called through the open windows

of the rooms she shared with a man she thought
     she loved. All that summer, she watched
         across the street the magician’s idiot son

paint over and over the Magic & Costume Shop’s
     intricate portico — all frets and scallops, details
         from another century. The more he painted though

the more his sheer purity of attention seemed
     to judge her own life as frayed somehow and wrong.
         Daily the son worked until the city swerved

toward night’s dizzy carnival with moons
     and swans afloat in neon over the streets.
         One evening she saw the magician’s trick bouquet

flower at the curb while he filled his car.
     He folded the multicolored scarves, then
         caged the fabulous disappearing pigeons.

It is a common human longing to want utterly
     to vanish from one life and arrive transformed
         in another. When the man came home, he’d

touch her shoulders, her neck, but each touch
     discovered only the borders of her solitude.
         As a child in that neighborhood she’d believed

people were hollow and filled with quiet music, that
     if she were hurt deeply enough she would break
         and leave only a blue scroll of notes.

At first when he hit her, her face burned.
     Far off the stadium lights crossed the cool
         green diamond and burnished cobwebs swaying

on the ceiling. Then she became invisible,
     so when the doctor leaned over and asked
         her name all she could think of were her dresses

thrown from the window like peonies exploding
     to bloom in the clear dark air. No music —
         merely a rose haze through her lids, something

ticking in her head like a metronome
     in a parlor, dusty and arid with steam heat.
         How many lives she’d passed through to find

herself, an aging woman in black, before the locked
     and empty shop. So much sleight of hand, the years
         simply dissolving. Again she hears the crowd,

a billow of applause rippling across the brilliant
     diamond, across the mysterious passage
         of time and the failure of sorrow to pass away.

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