Self-Portrait as Magician

By Jeannine Hall-Gailey

No wands or hat tricks here, just real conjuring

with a thumping pop soundtrack and dire consequences.

I can transform, I can bend time and space to my whim.

I can befriend unicorns and talking cats.

I can enchant the amulet to kill your enemy

or create a potion to heal him.

No one whispers the word “witch” and when the wind

blows through my hair, my bejeweled nails might lead you

to believe the stereotypes, remember this:

my special power is fire, a curtain of pageant

through which I will watch you burn.

My story is a lot like yours – full of weakness,

despair, even boredom, because lighting things up

can only be exciting so many times.

The romance, the tragedies you might imagine

are zipped up and carried around in my head,

away from my troubled fingers, worrying the beads

and spells until they crumble.

In the end, I won’t be able to save anyone in the story –

not you, not myself, not the love interest waiting precarious

in the wings. And if magic can’t save us, what can?

I will search through books and lockets and wardrobes

for the answer we are all looking for: safety, immortality,

recreation, the power of the Gods, those untrustworthy monsters.


Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained FeversThe Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.