Hazards of Being, a Black Mage in the 23rd Century


I pull in resolution, and begin

To doubt th’equivocation of the fiend

That lies like truth …      

The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act V, Scene V, Lines 41-44


Some might ask you to perform tricks. If you give them the slip,

They might call you tricky. A trick. Losing yourself in a tome,


You could conjure a memory of kindergarten and a boy’s blue

Lips, or—something entirely different from what critics expect.


If you enchant the red dress robes from your mage college graduation

And the hood you ditched—which indicates your class and year—


Minutes after the apprenticeship in dual-casting and double-consciousness—

Both could float around without you—speak for you, if necessary.


Trust me. You can’t miss an equivocation. Every one points to nothing.

You will eat, sleep, seethe—so that the clan in power can talk you


Into in their tedious organizations. As an infiltrator, your hands tend

To be tied—in the office—when another black wizard summons a familiar.


While raising the dead, an issue might speak as it eats at you, your growing

Family—ask the cost of each spell cast through and against you in these


Last four hundred years. Yes. A line of blood, smeared on the floor, can

Tether. As the mouth of a line of sorcerers, you divine red signs, read as runes.


Before the birth of your first child, they say:

STOP   DO NOT     ENTER     ONE WAY DEAD   END NO                      YIELD


Which almost breaks—spilling the cask of womb open—but fails to.


Your eye’s mystified burn is a hazard too. The third in a backlash of hexes

You will one day need to explain the source of. Code words instituted before


Your induction into these ordinary communities (once spelled out) might

Never escape you. Like being possessed. Poisons rendered in the flesh.


You may kill a child before—or after—you bear it. Test the magical

Properties of that child and their kin. A danger. Fulsome creatures, these.


Their habits, if turned into ingredients or objects—could find a fiend,

Imbued with gall, where the mana of a mortal’s milk should be.


*previous version of this poem published in Yemassee Journal