The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Daughters by Brittney Corrigan


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.

Brittney Corrigan is the author of the poetry collections Daughters, Breaking, Navigation, and 40 WeeksSolastalgia, a collection of poems about climate change, extinction, and the Anthropocene Age, is forthcoming from JackLeg Press in 2023. Brittney was raised in Colorado and has lived in Portland, Oregon for the past three decades, where she is an alumna and employee of Reed College. She is currently at work on her first short story collection.

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