Tyler Heath

princess diana

i’m locked inside
a bedtime story.

the witch becomes
a horse heart.

the horse heart becomes
a mouthful of police lights

in a forest of refrigerators,
beneath a waterfall of knives.


Once we went to a magic show. It was small inside and dark. We sat and stared at the stage, stirring our drinks as they melted. Magic isn’t real, you said, It’s just secrets you look away from. Soon the music came on and the audience clapped and cheered. The magician revealed himself with a black cape and white gloves. He moved his hands around and was very quiet. We looked at each other and laughed. It was like we were in a cartoon. Then the magician called for a volunteer, closed his eyes and pointed at you. You sat frozen. You didn’t want to play along but I nudged you and smiled, It’ll be fun. Up on stage, you stood in the center of the light. You looked different all of the sudden. I’m not sure why. I saw the props with their zippers and mirrors. Everything felt like a joke. The magician pulled you closer. This isn’t a trick, he said, I want to hurt you. You looked at him confused. Did you hear me, he said, I want to hurt you. And like a punchline, the audience shouted together, He wants to hurt you, and started laughing uncontrollably. I could see their rabbit teeth in their wide mouths as the magician started pulling your hair. He pulled until you couldn’t close your eyes. He pulled until it tore out and you started feeling sick, like all the blood was rushing to your head, his hands gripping at the root. The laughing grew louder, the room spinning and wild. Abracadabra, the magician whispered, then a plume of smoke where you had been, all of you gone but your hair like a pile of ash. The curtain closed and it all went black.

For weeks after, I stood in the bathroom mirror and pulled my own hair harder, trying to disappear to where you’d gone. But it didn’t work. I just stayed in my kaleidoscope of pain, my skull burning until I passed out, the fluorescent lights above the sink shining on my new stage. Sometimes my dreams are covered in white rabbits always running toward a sewing machine, their fur slowly unstitched until they’re pink and screaming. Sometimes I think I still see you but it’s always someone else, same blue car speeding off toward the same blue sky, the exhaust billowing like a dark fog, as I stand on the side of the road, eyes closed, waiting to fall through a trapdoor.

Tyler Heath‘s poems have appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Thin Air, Birds Piled Loosely, Thimble, Gingerbread House and elsewhere. He lives in Dallas.