each sleight of hand, every spell thwarts a step toward the sanitarium of worthlessness. the cards are always laid in order and ready to be shuffled again. i will not be stuffed into a box after stuffing myself into glittery leotard and sheer tights. i am not the silent rabbit twitching my nose as you pull on my ears to yank me out of a hat. i am the one who cultivates the herbs from the ground, trades whispers with the dead, and still shields herself with oils, pouches, the phrases uttered in yoruba, swahili, and spanish dip my tongue in a diaspora, the wellspring that you may skim but never dive in deep. open the book of spells blow the dust away from the pages written passed down make them your own revamp their works like the lipstick spread bright as your stockings caught in your fingernails weaved through smiles when pains and the least transform into raising children, picket signs, bank accounts, bodies from death and deficit. a persistence that outlasts sisyphus rests on your shoulders, so rest. because we are magic, rules will never apply to us.

TARA BETTS is the author of Break the Habit and Arc & Hue. Her chapbooks include 7 x 7: kwansabas and THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. Her writing has appeared in Poetry, Obsidian, Callaloo, and several anthologies. She is a co-editor for the anthology The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Mixed Race in the 21st Century. Betts earned her MFA at New England College and her Ph.D. in English at Binghamton University. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago.