A neighbor once caught me in someone else’s driveway staring at the license plates on my block. I was five years old. We lived in a court and I was allowed to play in the court by myself so long as I didn’t wander off too far which I did often but I had grown used to crouching. Had grown used to hopping fences and often could slip in and out to Lea’s house undetected. I don’t know the circumstances of why I was outside but I do remember it was overcast. I do remember I had a light jacket on, probably a shade of pink. I am sure my hair was uncombed. I am sure my bangs felt too long. I am sure that I was trying to rid myself of this hindrance even so young, tossing it away with my hand constantly or tying it back in a ponytail, patting the back of my head when it was sopping from the heat and wishing I could peel it off. When it was cooler, I left it alone. Left it down and I am sure I was wearing pink corduroy pants with brown spots in the center of the knees. They were permanent. I was sure I had been tucking my chin to my neck and twisting the pine needle with both hands and crouching, my knees strong then. My white sneakers scuffed. The tips of my shoelaces drawn brown with mud and I am sure I didn’t hear her approach me from behind. I am sure she heard me muttering.
I had been going up the driveway of each neighbor’s house and sitting behind the cars, in front of the license plate. She had seen me from her window. I was looking closely at the license plate, that is all she could see. I was looking at each piece of information. VA for state tags. To be clear it was VA, like VAH. Like the sound it made. Vah. I would say it aloud. Vah, she must have heard me. The letters in front of the numbers. Some would be doubled. Some in doubles. That felt special, like they were chosen to be doubles. Like some plates required scrutiny. This one had a green tag in the top left corner which was usual but also did not have repeating numbers. XGH-2879. It would have sounded better, I am saying out loud, XGH-2873 when I hear her.
the first card I pull is the Magician.
say nothing about it.
my couch is stained from cat vomit
and chocolate ice cream
fresh linen spray.
I am uncomfortable
at all times, at all
hours of every day
and tonight is no exception.
I am trying not to look in
the mirror behind you and
instead focus on the red wine
in the glass,
the bottle on altar, not comment
on eye color, guess placements without
ado, turning over cards to let you
I try to explain to someone one day
what I am seeing in the mirror.
no one is there, I say this first
to myself on a walk
around, pass a little girl in pink dress.
a haze, like a fog surrounding my body
begins to build and my voice,
almost like it’s been previously
recorded and then played back,
comes through me and I have to
repeat what she says.
but sometimes the track is off
so I am two seconds ahead of myself
and it’s hard to watch
the way the mouth doesn’t
fit the soundtrack
back up, I’m muttering I think.
stop myself when her brother looks.
no, don’t tell him that.
Australia looks better than Alaska,
that’s all I tell him.
we have some wands between us.
keep it to myself:
when they walk
into the room.
“the magician, abridged”
I was five and soft and supple and ingenue and so much deeper than I am now. She said what are you doing? from behind me which scared me. I was tiny and crouched there with my most favorite one to hold; the withered needle. I am sure she heard me talking to myself.
I said I’m trying to read the code.
“the magician, elongated”