Cathryn Hankla ~ Misdirection

      after Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Conjurer”

Useless glass­es perched on his nose,
The thief gazes sky­ward in false supplication
As he grabs the dan­gling purse.

The globe win­dow above
His head seems to tilt in a sea­son­al nod
To what’s at stake in this enter­tain­ing scene,

Which is a win­dow into being.
Distracted by the trick,
By the magician’s sleight of hand and all trinkets

Of this mag­ic show below the heavens,
Our minds are slower
Than the dan­ger of such cunning

Targeting us as marks, blunting
Our bet­ter natures, steal­ing us blind.
Caught in sphere and circle,

Crowned by ridicu­lous hats,
Thinking that every­thing is on the table,
The cups, the glis­ten­ing marbles,

Even the mag­ic wand, and something
Like a frog about to leap—
Our rapt atten­tion meets a peek­ing owl,

Our own lost wisdom.
The boy we once were
Watches us with fascination,

But the crowd is busy look­ing askance.
Devil’s ears on the dog
Twitch below the table where our eyes do not reach.

We’re trained on the decoy,
The gold­en ball that trips us into losing
Every god we ever want­ed to behold.


Cathryn Hankla is the author of over a dozen books of poet­ry, fic­tion, and non­fic­tion, most recent­ly Great Bear, Galaxes, and Lost Places: on los­ing and find­ing home. She teach­es in the Jackson Center for Crearive Writing at Hollins University and chairs the English & Creative Writing Department.