The 2River View 25.3 (Spring 2021)

Richard Spilman


The day before school let out,
someone hired a magician
to keep us in our seats—
not much of a school
and, as it turned out,
not much of a magician either.
My dad would call him serviceable.
He did fine with the coins
and handkerchiefs, the rabbit,
the unfortunate return
of the principal sawn in half.

Finally, a blonde in a curtained
chamber, a bit of smoke,
the snap of a broken spring
and black cloth meant to hide her
caught halfway down
before it rippled into place.
We thought, so what, but
from habit or perhaps unwilling
to admit what all could see,
the magician bowed triumphantly,
and we laughed him off the stage.

Mockery chittered in the halls
but it didn’t last. We had cards
to share, yearbooks to sign,
and besides we knew the drill,
the buildup to the big show,
the glitch that ruined everything—
it was our story, too—so we left
scorn behind and waved goodbye
to dreams we’d never believed in,
welcoming the sunlit summer
of our soon to be serviceable lives.

When Winter Was Winter

After the new year’s first snow,
they took the meanest gilt,
the one they thought might kill
her young, took her behind
the barn, put a slug between
her eyes and let her drain,
saving the blood for pudding,
the head for cheese.

A black streak where they’d
dragged her through the snow,
darker for the blinding white
on either side, resembled
a gash in the belly of the land.
They hung her by the hocks
in a shed, just enough cover
to keep her from freezing.

Then rude cuts reduced her
to her uses: hams, chops
and ribs, the rest ground
and pressed into pale rosaries.
Some for the ice box,
but most in drifts with flags
to mark them, since the snow
wouldn’t melt until spring.

Richard Spilman is the author of In the Night Speaking and the chapbook Suspension.

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