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  • Christa Pagliei

Elegy for a Magician: A Poem for Harry and Bess Houdini





When the great Houdini died,

and did break his mortal bonds,

the brethren performed the ancient rite

of the broken wand.(1)

But before he made his exit

the skeptic made a last reprieve:

“Hold a séance on all hallows

the code is “Rosabelle believe” (2)

Now the circle waits for answers

and the postcards from the dead

lo’ the automatic writing (3)

does come naught from hand or head.

Dig a grave or build a castle

neither can contain

the water in the vessel

tis’ the soul’s seat in the brain.

When your cup was turn’ed over

in the ever broad’ning sea. (4)

Us two souls were bound to wander,

please find your way back to me.

If the baseline is forever

and beauty is just a trance,

then upward flows my river

in my veins your blood will dance.

Oh my ribs are just a bird’s cage

please unhook my silver clasp

I’ll alight to you unbidden

and we’ll be freed at last.

Yet years of silence were unbroken

she snuffed the candle with her hand.

“I think ten years is long enough

to wait for any man.”

(1) The Broken Wand Ceremony is a ceremony performed at the memorial of the death of a magician, a wand is broken, symbolizing that the magic has left this world with the magician who wielded it.

(2) Before Houdini died he and his wife decided on a passcode to authenticate any after death message. This was a line from the play that they were both in when they met “Rosabelle believe.”

(3) “Automatic writing is writing purportedly produced by subconscious and/or spiritual source without the writer being consciously aware of what they are writing about.” Automatic Writing- Wikipedia

(4) The transcendentalists believed that the soul was akin to a chalice containing the soul floating in a great ocean that was the whole of human consciousness. When death came, the cup tipped over and the soul became one with this great ocean.

(Photo, Digital 2021) (Poem, Dogrel 2011) (both mine)(both mine)

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