by Tara Betts

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.