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How Do I Say This? After Cargo by Ada Limon

When Houdini died, his wife, Bess, held seances for him.

They used a secret code only decipherable between

Magician and Magician’s assistant.

Decided on before death got wind of Houdini,

so they could be certain to get hold of each other,

no mystery spirits or unknown earthly souls-just Harry and Bess.

When she never got an answer, she said ten years was long enough to wait for any man

and promptly stopped the seances.

Do you know any magic show codes?

Maybe, I could write to you in them.

Maybe, it would work better for us than Houdini and his wife.

I am not good at talking,

so writing really is best.

I wish I could write to you from the shower.

There, all the best ideas dribble down my brain stem.

They dissipate before the steamed fog lifts off the mirror,

leaving my reflection shocked and blank with disappeared ideas.

Or, maybe, I want to write you from the middle of the night.

Only I can’t, because when I’m nervous about turning the light on, I don’t.

What if I reveal a lingering ghost or my own midnight reflection?

When I wake up, my ideas are not half as good as they would’ve been lit up by starlight.

I suppose, if I write them in the shower,

or from a half-dream,

you’d have to read them that way too,

for them to translate at all.

Maybe, we are both relieved I have to open a Google Doc to write this.

Maybe, that still feels too pedestrian.

Maybe, instead, I will write to you in Scholastic book fair secret ink,

the kind you have to shine a cheap blacklight on to read.

Now, I’m not sure about this whole letter.

The mail, like my mood, can be unreliable.

Maybe, I’ll send it by carrier pigeon.

Maybe, I’ll write it directly on the pigeon’s wings and pray no feathers fall off.

Maybe, I’ll just get over myself.

Maybe, I’ll just tell you I love you.


Can you hear it? Can you see it?


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