This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Daughters by Brittney Corrigan, released by Airlie Press in 2021.
Magician’s Assistant’s Daughter
This is about my childhood. About how I was always made to sit in the wings, my mouth as still as if it had been stitched, as if I were enchanted into stone. About how I knew all his secrets, knew exactly what he did, knew and couldn’t say. Preserved the act. This is about how my mother was good at smiling. About how when he handed her the slight, flashy things on silk hangers, when he made her put them on and twirl and raise her arms up in the air, everyone looking at the sparkle of her slender legs, she smiled like she deserved it. This is about how even when we thought it wasn’t possible, there would be more of it: scarf after scarf after scarf, the blacks and blues and yellows and reds of them erupting from his hands. And also the birds, how they flew to the rafters, always came back. This is about how sometimes he would take off his hat, rotate it in slow, hypnotic spins, show us the empty dark inside, show us there was nothing there, and then produce a rabbit from out of the black. So soft, so calm and trusting, so unmarred and for us, we forgot about everything else. This is about the one trick that could almost unsteady my mother’s smile. The one where she climbed into the box, laid back her dazzling head, flexed and pointed her glitter-bright feet. The one where he shut the lid and closed her in. Dizzied her, readied the saw, and pulled her apart like a melon split in half. This is about how he put her back together, though I could see how she wobbled when she stood. I could hear her pleading through the applause. I could feel her eyes on me, witness the abracadabra of her heart, how it whispered to us: time to pierce the illusion, girls, time to vanish, time to run.