“How to Think About Magic” Poem by Rachel Glassman

Image by Vicky Chen

How to Think About Magic

Poem by Rachel Glassman


My aunt sits by the river and feeds honey and flowers to the spirits. She makes a painting of a water goddess and tells me, Aspire to holy compassion. She gives me a sequined flag, a feather boa, and some dark red beads. When I am fifteen she says, You are very very old and, Wait for love, it is coming and you’ll recognize it.



A pervert used to live in my basement so she comes to shriek in Aramaic at its dark oozing spirit. With her fingers she carefully places cornmeal in protective patterns. When we emerge into the yard my neighbour is leaning over the fence and he says, Damn, you’ve got a good set of lungs, the hell was all that yelling about? An obese black rat runs out behind us, looking panicked and twitchy.



She loosens up the side of my skull. There are many kinds of truth, I know this, and if the enormous rat was the scurrying of a vanquished ghost, that becomes truth in the way that old dreams, remembered from childhood, have their own sort of reality.



Remember the flood? The rain poured and the waters swept away the purple plastic chair. I climbed a tall tree and at the top was a green room, which was a great expanse of forest. The wolves met me there and the first wolf was myself, the first wolf was my mother. She kissed my face and there was a cozy sweetness in the ferocious sweep of the storm. I have remembered this all my life.



Of course this is just a patchwork of half-watched movies and objective rains. Maybe someone read me The Jungle Book. Maybe once that purple chair really blew over in the wind. But what I am left with is the specific sensation of my nose being licked by a kindly wolf.



I think I am large enough for both facts and ghosts. I have lived a thousand thousand lives. The way to hold it all, the way to love it all, is to look only sideways at the nebulous preciousness. Stay very still. Wink a little, maybe. Watch the flowers float by on their way downstream.