the vanishing princess
and he calls her
to a different place
where she peers
through the black frame
but she cannot smell
wine garlic sweat breath
and can hardly
what they require:
a porcelain hand,
but only at the given time
and almost smiles
but the black box
and the black earth
have a stronger call
so she fades
she will be called
on another night
for another crowd
in another place.
Seeing I had the knack
of being small, he taught me
to be invisible: to vanish
into a sack shut in a closet
till he cut me free.
I used to dance. One day
he took me to a wood,
blew on my arm and when I saw
my father's name in ash –
well pardon me, I won't divulge the trick.
I followed him
and times were hard and places too.
My folks said never to come back.
I didn't. Soon I was on a stage
in a bright light and spoke
words from the dead which he'd explain
meaning that they should not be fooled
as he was not, that there were phonies
out there looking for a quick buck
who never knew his father called him “Ehrich”
or that his mother had no English.
He'd always check in with the police,
ask them to lock him up and then break out.
He was chained everywhere. When they threw him
off cliffs, in rivers – every time
he'd come back gasping to the same applause.
No gun nor bomb could touch him.
He'd catch bullets in his hand.
Almost, you'd think, he'd beaten the big D
till the final punch
ripped into pain and stilled him.
“I'm a fake,” he said. Well I knew that.
Why would I want him different than he was?
Once he was gone I carried on
best as I could and waited all the time.
He never whispered “Rosebelle” in my ear –
or if he did I never heard.
I'm growing deaf. Besides, it's been ten years
and that's enough to wait for any man
living or dead. I'll put the candle out
for the last time. There's no afterwards.
When I'm gone, bury me with his bones.
Copyright © Kathleen Bell, 2015.