Thursday, May 10, 2012

Got Me in Its Spell

Some damn slice of Spam shows up on my computer almost daily, for a nothing called Magic Jack; never opened a message so I have no idea what that is, nor do I care. But that word “Magic” has been haunting my brain like the words to some familiar song.

As a result, lately I’ve been thinking and remembering… magic sets and birthday magic shows, a happy family staple of mid-20th century America; King Arthur’s mentor Merlin perennially revived in books and movies; Sinatra’s versions of “Witchcraft” and “That Old Black Magic”; Ingmar Bergman’s superb black-and-white film starring a youngish Max von Sydow as The Magician, and the recent, and decent, bit of full-color trickery called The Illusionist; innumerable novels of the world incorporating anything-may-happen “magic realism,” versus John Fowles’
creepy Greek Isles sojourn titled The Magus; the ubiquitous wizards and fannish wannabes brought together by mania for the Harry Potter saga and The Lord of the Rings; the inescapable illusions of Houdini and his modern-day descendants, the “Davids” and “Chrises” appearing and disappearing near us all.

Among the hundreds of references and memories circling in my brain, one stands starkly lit and alone, a late-Seventies television commercial. Ridiculous that such a thing can still command one’s attention (anything short of Kate Upton engulfing a burger, anyway!) 35 years later, but such is the case. And from that case, his special holding cell, comes the scary ventriloquist’s dummy of the thriller flick
simply titled Magic (starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret).

The dummy, in a tightening close-up of its neck and head, a continuous 30-second shot, mockingly intones a scary bit of verse, something along the lines of:

Corpses are blue,
Blood is red;
Magic is fun…
You’re dead.

Then the eyes roll up in its head, and End.

Whoa, Nelly! That one hit me straight on, and it was just as disquieting the few times I caught it again. But Magic the film pretty much stiffed, and the commercial vanished into the graveyard of dead TV spots. Yet the memory lingers on… (It’s possible that I’m misremembering the verse recited. In a 30-second You Tube upload the dummy practically smacks its lips saying, “Hocus pocus, We take her to bed; Magic is fun, We’re dead.” But I like my version better, seems more likely to have satisfied the television censors of 1978!)

Anyway, such were the forms of magic lurking in my head when I wrote this odd poem many years later…


She vanished me. Now you see
me nought. A mesmer’d man,
a cache of bewilderment, I was
convenience of coyntage only.

What began as parlor tricks—
my slide of hands upon her
sequined gown, and nothing
up my sleeve—became a mixed

preponderance, a legerdemain
of lust, and I masterfully mis-
directed. Pick a night, any
night, any night at all; feigned

rings linked, fingers palming
balls, miraculous escapes.
Found coin did multiply her
‘til she worked my enabling

cards with a consummate skill;
no one discerned the mage
in her rough magic… (Oh, teller
ensorcelled! Oh, Circean tale!)

For as I too quickly learned,
the trick is sold when the trick
is told. Wands become wilted
flowers; fair-color silks turn

mourning doves; and love dis-
appears up its own frayed rope
once the abracadabras have
all been said, and no rabbits

in the rigged hat remain. My
heart is black stone now
without illusions, much harder
words unpenned--who’d deny

such grievance?--as I saw my
self in half, my voice thrown
far, full past some dummy man-
drake’s raw unsevered cords.

* * * *
Hoist with his own petard? Maybe... so long as you know that petard does not mean "rope."


David said...

Doris Day singing "It's Magic"; or if that's too tame try the Eric Dolphy version.

I Witness said...

Hello, David. Those are indeed magical performances, and I welcome any and all such recommendations. I wasn't thinking music, much, when I wrote the piece so, please, readers, feel free to mesmerize me more.