Sister Psalm

While my sister lies on a recliner
3,000 miles away, a cocktail
of destruction dripping
into her bloodstream,
Carlos is showing me a magic trick.

Other students have shown me tricks before,
bad ones, the sleight of hand so obvious
I must feign amazement like a doting mother.
I look at the clock, the stack of papers
on my desk, and watch with weary skepticism
as Carlos shuffles his deck of cards.

It’s a complicated trick.  He holds out
the deck and I pick a card at random.
He has me put it back and shuffle
the deck myself, which I do, that small
mean part of me making it extra thorough.

He fans the deck face up.
“Do you see your card?”
He divides the deck and fans it again.
“Do you see your card now?”
And so it goes, until I’m not sure
how he will ever find the right one,
though there must be some way
he’s keeping track.  Some formula
to all that dividing and shuffling.

Then he points across the room and says,
“Look in the second book on that shelf.”
I go and look, and there it is, my six of clubs,
buried inside a book on the other side of the room.

I tell him how good he is, and he says
his mother, who goes to church, doesn’t like his tricks.
That they are bad, something of the devil.

I think of all my prayers
for my sister’s healing, how much I want
a miracle, God’s own sleight of hand,

and how it is already here, maybe,
in Carlos’s triumphant face, here
in my startled gasp,
this holy devil reminder
of impossible things
made real.

(first published by CALYX Vol. 30:1 )