I didn’t know he was a magic man, a shape-shifter. When I met him, he was Erik, trapeze artist, diminutive Jew. I knew he liked streudel, stuffed cabbage, his mother’s babka. He held me with his bird fingers—cupping my chin—teasing me with his flashing eyes. I dreamt he was small enough to fit in my pocket. Fold him up in quarters like a white handkerchief, to keep him near.
In the beginning, I was his magic girl. Swish. I hear it still. The whoosh of the black cloth over the box. The swords chiseled in. Never touching my flesh. Stepping out, I smiled. Released from danger. Never scared. Never scarred.
Then he became Houdini. The only trace of our act together, the way he twined and untwined my curls at night. I had my own disappearing act. He dazzled, unlocked manacles, handcuffs, climbed out of milk cans, trunks, coffins. My upside-down man unleashed himself from a straitjacket in midair as I held my breath.
I wanted to always be his gamin girl, to keep a small flame for him, before and even after death. Do ghosts have breath?
In my old age I became what I always was. A forsaken angel with wings of stone