Mrs. Houdini, 1919

by Sylvia Cavanaugh

Imagine her standing there
immobilized by the silence
their front window
high above the city street
tall rectangle of glass
a place for her fingerprints
to be wiped away later
she breathes in the quiet
it’s three minutes now
and counting
soon she will hear
the bolt-upright
of operatic inhale
as Harry flings himself
from the frigid bathwater
to collapse
on the rigid arrangement
of black and white tile
then the afternoon’s
urgent music
in the key of metal
against the metal
of handcuffs and chains
this is the score of their lives
staccatoed by small
satisfying clicks of release
it’s about his icy need
to be recognized
these few minutes of peace
are almost up for Bess
while down below
a scattering of women
one or two, even three
congeal to a river
“Votes for Women”
on square signs
those warm minds click

Sylvia Cavanaugh teaches high school cultural studies and has advised breakdancers and poets. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in various periodicals and anthologies. She is a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual: An Online Community Journal of Poetry. Her first chapbook, Staring Through My Eyeswas published by Finishing Line Press. A second, Angular Embrace, was published in 2018 by Kelsay Books. More can be found at

Copyright 2018, Sylvia Cavanaugh

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