By Amber Flora Thomas
To the conjurer of rabbits out of black hats, the escapist
down to his final act of vanishing beneath fifty pounds of chains,
you are born. To his legacy of tricks and Houdini-style
metamorphosis just waiting to spin out
into the San Francisco morning, where delivery trucks
back up to doors, caution lights sending yellow
like a heartbeat against the night.
He puts his hand over your mouth. Are you
the fire-eater? You come direct from the illusionist
to catapult from the black raft of his blessing.
The infant devotion: eyes newly open
believe the world: murky, against the white walls
ambient motions. You’ll play a charmed rodent, and disappear
beneath his black cape. Another feat of possession.
Another vat of bottled smoke. He loosens knots,
saws the box open, rips a red scarf from his sleeve.
The silk becomes a dove becomes a rabbit
and the cages hide in the floor.
Amber Flora Thomas was born and raised in San Francisco, earned her BA at Humboldt State University, and earned her MFA at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of The Rabbits Could Sing (University of Alaska Press, 2012) and the Eye of Water (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade. She has taught at Washington University in St. Louis, Dominican University of California, and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Editor’s Note: I was introduced to Amber Flora Thomas when she read with Peggy Shumaker and Li-Young Lee at a Red Hen Press reading held in New York’s Poets House. When she introduced today’s poem, she told the following story. Her parents were hippies living in San Francisco’s Haight district in the 1960’s and 1970’s. When Thomas was born, her father was asked to indicate his occupation on her birth certificate. He wrote “magician.” A child of San Francisco hippies myself, I couldn’t help but laugh. My father, too, would have enjoyed this. Listening to Thomas read this lyrical poem wrought with finely-chiseled images, I was transported to world—at once real and magical—conjured from thin air by a father for his daughter.
Want to see more by Amber Flora Thomas?
The Poetry Foundation
Buy The Rabbits Could Sing from University of Alaska Press
Buy Eye of Water from University of Pittsburgh Press