I’m My Father’s Medium: In Praise of Harry Houdini

Amazed me that astounding Houdini, my
boyhood idol, says my dad, trussed in
cuffs, tied up, locked up, all the
damned knots scouts or seaman could muster.
Escaped every time like a musketeer.
Flexible as putty, he was rubber tough,
guts like a burglar’s bag, fingers safe crackers envied.
Hoopty-doo, hidey-dee-ho, Harry, you
illusionist – my dad laughs – the man packed
jack loads of trick kits and hidden moves,
keys passed with kisses, palmed pry bars,
leveraged his act like a curbside broker.
Magical logic mimed the art of Sherlock Holmes.
No one solves all the mysteries of sudden death,
other side of the river, the last street crossed, Harry
punched out like a workday clock, killed the
questions this preacher’s kid would ask the
rabbi’s son. His magical wife held
séances every Halloween. Speak, Harry,
tell us about the milk cans on the other side.
Utter silence. No fake hands or floating
vases or instantly blooming roses.
Well, says my dad, ashes to dust, bless his
xeric bones, the valleys of all bones,
youthful idols, empty trunks, happy excess.
Zounds, dad shouts. I’m tired, I must dream.

—Richard Roe