A Disappearing Act
The magician pulls death
out of his hat and
saws it in half and in half again
until death is a carpet
of confetti and sequins.
They say that every time we sneeze
we skip one heartbeat
but energy can’t just be
unmade, it changes
and my pop’s heart was so big
that his skipped heartbeat-turned-sneeze
transformed into the atom bomb.
Pop was the kinda granddad
who talked too much,
who we hid from in the hallway,
when he opened his mouth,
who imposed his opinions on science and religion,
who forced us to love Shakespeare, Patterson and Strauss.
A new nurse arrives as he’s about to go
says her name is Juliet and he whispers
well good, I’m Romeo, a sentimental bloke.
An eighty-one-year-old song transposed into thin air,
a caravan of choirs and a conductor’s baton
with Houdini for a son, my pop
was the guinea pig for magic tricks
especially The Great Disappearing.
At first he would make words vanish
calling it a seniors’ moment
pulchritudinous where every u was a blank
opened up like the hangman’s curse
it means beauty he’d say,
pressing meaning into our everyday verse.
Today on the shopping list lettuce
came second and tissues came first.
Pop forgot to care about things like
diphthongs and Vivaldi, he became
a victim of ventriloquism
and of I can’t lift this cup to my mouth anymore
but don’t stop caring pop you’re our secret
supplier of ALDI’s coffee chocolate sticks,
you catch every morning sunrise in a jar
to conjure tomatoes from the veggie patch,
you’re a mix of encyclopedia and spiral ammonite,
you’re a wanderer of steep hills
you’re a wisdom swan diving from great heights.
When the magician waves his wand
and death disappears,
our dog who was your dog is our dog again
whimpering all night
No ace of spades to dig a grave pop,
no magical elixir
coin behind your ear,
no tricks, not even a top hat.
But I’m gonna scatter
your ashes half down the backyard
half into an empty six pack, I say
and he shoots back
I don’t believe in God but I’ve met a few angels today.
This piece commissioned by The Red Room Company for a workshop at Oxley College in New South Wales