The Psychic

- 1959-

He said I must pay special attention in cars. He wasn’t, he assured me, saying that I’d be in an accident but that for two weeks some particular caution was in order, &, he said, all I really needed to do was throw the white light of Alma around any car I entered & then I’d be fine. & when I asked about Alma, he said, Oh, come on, you know Alma well. You two were together first in Egypt & then at Stonehenge, & I nodded though I’ve never been— in this life at least—to Stonehenge; then I said, Shouldn’t I always throw the white light of Alma around a car? & when he said, Well, it wouldn’t hurt, I said, What about around planes, houses? What if I throw the white light of Alma around anyone who might need protection from the reckless speed of driving or the reckless swerve & skid of the world? & the psychic opened his hands & shrugged up his shoulders. So despite your doubt or mine as to why I’d gone there, to a psychic, in—I kid you not—a town of psychics—in the first place, right now, as you read this, let me throw the white light of Alma around you & everyone you pass close to today, beloved or stranger, the grocer, the bus driver, the boy on his longboard, the lady you stand silent beside in the elevator, & also I am throwing it around anyone they care about anywhere in the spin of the world, because, we can agree that these days, everywhere, particular caution is in order &, even if unverifiable, the light of my dear sister Alma, couldn’t hurt.

More by Victoria Redel

Getting Close

Because my mother loved pocketbooks
I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, a faux crocodile handle makes me weep.

Breathy clearing of throat, a smooth arm, heels on pavement, she lingers, sound tattoos.

I go to the thrift store to feel for bobby pins caught in the pocket seam
of a camel hair coat.

I hinge a satin handbag in the crease of my arm. I buy a little change purse with its
curled and fitted snap.

My mother bought this for me. This was my mother’s.

I buy and then I buy and then, another day, I buy something else.

In Paris she had a dog, Bijou, and when they fled Paris in 1942 they left the dog behind.

When my mother died on February 9, 1983, she left me.

Now, thirty years later and I am exactly her age.

I tell my husband I will probably die by the end of today and all day he says, Are you
getting close, Sweetheart? And late in the afternoon, he asks if he should buy enough filet
of sole for two.

From a blue velvet clutch I take out a mirror and behold my lips in the small rectangle.

Put on something nice. Let him splurge and take you out for dinner, my mother whispers
on the glass.

Economics

There were strollers, outgrown, circulated till a wheel fell off.

Anna’s infant RockaRoo went to Francesca then to Sophia

who gave it back to Anna when she had the twins.

Travel cribs traveled between homes and the green vest

Sophia knitted for Ming’s first was worn by all the next babies.

Onesies, drawstring gowns, snap-legged overalls,

snowsuits, sweatpants, jeans, t-shirts, jumpers,

all sorted, washed, boxed then sent on

till they were sorted, washed, boxed and sent again.

Pj’s worn to that silkiest perfection, then worn 

wholly through, reluctantly tossed. A blue dress

with applique lilacs was the favorite of each girl

and who knew where the velvet blazer came from,

but it did the job for more than one holiday concert.

Even this year, a photograph of Francesca’s youngest in
      Prague,

handsome in that hand-me-down wool pea coat. Sophia hit
      reply all:

Our last? No! Well, fits yours better than it ever did mine.

Related Poems

Tarot Readings Daily

They’re reading Tarot cards right now,
in the little pink house with the sign in the yard.
Shadows spider across still-green lawn
whose fate, so far, defies the frosts.

Someone asks the right question,
draws the right card.
Many cups in the immediate future;
radiance pouring down.

They know the future,
the creatures in the yard:
night, thirst, frost.
Only the sapiens in the house believe

fire, water, air, and earth
would bother to reveal
when to fear and love.
The one who’s paying

draws another card.
Outside, in the yard,
a squirrel noses seed that fell
like radiance, from above.

 

I'd Like a Little Flashlight

and I'd like to get naked and into bed and be hot radiating heat from the inside these sweaters and fleeceys do nothing to keep out the out or keep my vitals in—some drafty body I've got leaking in and out in all directions I'd like to get naked into bed but hot on this early winter afternoon already dusky grim and not think of all the ways I've gone about the world and shown myself a fool, shame poking holes in my thinned carapace practically lacy and woefully feminine I'd like to get naked into bed and feel if not hot then weightless as I once was in the sensory deprivation tank in Madison, Wisconsin circa 1992 I paid money for that perfectly body-temperatured silent pitch dark tank to do what? play dead and not die? that was before email before children before I knew anything more than the deaths of a few loved ones which were poisoned nuts of swallowed grief but nothing of life of life giving which cuts open the self bursting busted unsolvable I'd like to get naked into the bed of my life but hot hot my little flicker-self trumped up somehow blind and deaf to all the dampening misery of my friends' woe-oh-ohs and I'd like a little flashlight to write poems with this lousy day not this poem I'm writing under the mostly flat blaze of bulb but a poem written with the light itself a tiny fleeting love poem to life hot hot hot a poem that would say "oh look here a bright spot of life, oh look another!"

A Natural History of My White Girl

after Mendi Obadike

When I was a white girl, I had no mother.

I drank whiskey, lived in a house with no walls.

Girls visited and marveled at my room to breathe.
When it was sunny, they let down their hair, drank fresh orange juice.

We drank all morning, didn’t go to class.
I knew which words to carry in the arsenal, which memory to disarm the most resilient bully.
Nobody bothered us or asked why we were missing.

I never doubted this was me. I knew how to pull up short, how to light my name under their skin.

There was no need for mirrors. No need to get free.