The Magician by Rose Oliver

The Magician
by Rose Oliver

Now I lay me down to sleep,

Every night I send God my entreaty, kneeling before my bunk bed, my sister, Millie in the upper berth, already snoring, oblivious to the fact she could die before she wakes.I am six years old, a young insomniac. My prayer flies to heaven on the wings of the barn owls outside my window, their voices eerie in the dark.I am afraid to close my eyes. My thoughts circle, nocturnal vultures.In the downstairs living room bookcase, is the photo album of my mother’s family, sepia toned dead people.
Alice, my mother’s mom in a big feather plumed hat.The grandma I never knew.
Mildred, mom’s only sister, dead three weeks after my grandmother. John, Edward, James-my uncles smiling on ice skates- dead in their twenties.All gone.A family of ghosts.The gone are ever present. Sad mama. Only one left- everyone fallen to the plague of her day: tuberculosis.

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

The dead. Larger than life.I think of the Sunday school Jesus who loves all the children of the world. Then there is father God who sentences his only son to death.I can make no sense of the divine.I am still awake. I worry about my baby sister who died before she even had a name.I remember placing my stubby finger on her warm bald head.Then she was gone.Mom said she is with God. I wonder where that is.I put my baby doll in the bassinet where she would have slept.I see her on the ceiling at night. I call out the her. But just like when I call out to God, there is no answer.

If I should die…

The prayer puzzles and frightens me.How can I not be here. There are so many vacant places. Empty spaces.My world is populated by ethereal beings. All the derailed lives full of detoured dead ended possibilities.My mom in perpetual grief, her personal holocaust.

before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Greedy God, always taking those we love.I imagine God as a magician, waving his magic wand , making people disappear. He is an amateur, inept. All of his abracadabra and our desperate whispered Amens never brings the vanished home again.

Hear Rose Oliver recite the poem on the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast:

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Rose Oliver is a retired Registered Nurse living in Western Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in Haiku Journal, One Art: a Poetry Journal, Remembered Arts, and a number of anthologies.

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