A Drink with Houdini (poem)

My wine glass is a coffee mug
with handsome Houdini painted on,
tied up, cuffed, dipped upside
down in cold water. He’s got a face
like he’s sure he’ll get free, like
if he doesn’t, he’s sure he’s at least
immortal enough to be reborn one day
on a mug in the next millennium.

Houdini’s wine mug is tricky.
You pour the cheap stuff in
behind the antique-colored, faux
posters, and the wiry escapist
slips his bonds without a twitch.

Or, to be more accurate,
the bonds slip him. The handcuffs
disappear, the straight jacket undoes,
the lung-crushing water drains
into the polished black scrim
that works the inside of the cup,
into the pulse-lulling red
that sloshes behind it.

The bonds dissipate, almost,
and slink their way down my esophagus—
a rain of deconstructive intoxicants
to ensnare the presto hands
and abracadabra body
of the guilt I carry, at the bottom

-M. Ashley

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