Hocus Pocus

by David Koehn


Pick a card any card, the ace of spades, the tarot’s magician, your American Express.
What the hand knows the eye can never know. Shuffle the cards all you like.
The stop start stuck in traffic syllabary strikes the mouth’s spark in mockery.
As a child, late night TV was my god. Watching “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” changed my life:
The murderous somnambulist let loose on us by the insane hypnotist.
I dreamt that the affection I felt was legerdemain.
Fan all the cards to show the shuffled array, the random order of things.
On the back page of the September 11th 1908 Nashua Telegraph
There is an ad for Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment
Where “the body is a machine of flesh.”
I did not dream of ten bassoon players arcing the air with a B flat.
The card trick always looks like magic until the trick is revealed.
The orbs would float between us, hovering, absorbing our attention.
They would drop from the air into a copper bowl I could not quite put my arms around.

Cut the deck anywhere. There they would disappear.
While he performed a boy became uncomfortable in his skin.
A woman stopped loving her children.
I became thirsty and walked to the spring where I drank
And no matter how long or how hard I pulled the water into my throat I could not stop my thirst.
We revered him. The mock latin that invoked our attention was nothing but a distraction from a distraction.
The body’s repositioning of what the body senses
Just after surprise. There is a deck of cards in the drawer, the fourth card, the 7 of clubs, has your name on it.
The snake oil salesman that sells snake oil that contains no snake oil has won.
We have given ourselves over to the illusionist
Rather than the magician, to the vacant house’s porchlight at the end of the street
Rather than the dragon in the stars, to the dream of something rotten
Over the love of knowledge or our children or our lovers about to fall to their death.




David Koehn’s first full-length manuscript, Twine, now available from Bauhan Publishing, won the 2013 May Sarton Poetry Prize. David just released Compendium (Omnidawn Publishing 2017), a collection of Donald Justice’s take on prosody. His second full-length collection, Scatterplot, is due out from Omnidawn Publishing in 2020.