Poetry Finalist Iris Dunkle

May 8, 2017 by

Poetry Finalist Iris Dunkle


Charmian London Meets Harry Houdini

That the heart is not shaped like a trick box
though velvet-tongued, though bottomed with a spring-
loaded door that opens when pressed enough.

That one can feel sealed in that smooth, fogged glass.
The night she met Houdini the crowd of hundreds
hushed as they watched his daring escape.
That the chains were heavy and marked the skin
and two of the extras disappeared. First,
her sickened husband then Houdini’s young wife.

That the heart is not shaped like a trick box.
Letters folded into tiny stars up
against the milk star sky of a clear night.

That you have to fold your body just right.
The weeks she spent in New York like chambers
of an ever turning nautilus shell.

That the water was cold. That it rose fast.
That always at the center of the shell
there was nothing solid to hang on to.

That underwater everything looks and
sounds like a dream. Hair blooms, chains loosen—

That the heart is not shaped like a trick box
and one can walk off that dark stage, alone
to nothing but the custody of stars.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle‘s books include: Gold Passage (2013), There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air (2015) and  Interrupted Geographies (2017); she is currently writing the biography of Charmian Kittredge London, Jack London’s wife.

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