Kirsten Kaschock


(found material from the New York Times)


famous as a defier
an exposer of here this afternoon spiritualism

He relates to my own domesticity in the following manner:


underwent two operations.
due to the second
a newly discovered chapter of accidents
ended fatally for thousands.

                              Outside, the last bite
                              of fall. Yellow leaves wince.

Nearing end of semester One, trimester Two. First draft of final papers soon due.

to be cheating the very jaws of October
on the opening night

                              Only I only mention trees—magicians—
                              directing them away from my body
                              to say      (what else?)                            this is not
                              not about me.

                              I know traps, trees, locusts
                              their thorned vines
                              strangling them with protection.

I missed a class in September.
Left them an assignment: write meaningfully about nature.


his engagement apparatus—
his "water torture cell"—overturned.
struck him on the audience.

                              Write about this:
                              how small your world is—and whether or not
                              it is small in the right ways.

Narrow your subject. Limit your thesis. This is not arguable.

then, completed his performance—
afterward the injured fractured
Houdini[would] discontinue,
however, not miss a show.

                              Spoons, cups: these are too small.
                              Window: again, too.

Bouts of nausea did not keep me from 8AM classes.
I was not about to die. Remember—he fit through anything.

his company went to a Schenectady called pain.

                              I have learned—if one leaf
                              is a forest, or a glass of ice water
                              ocean—you may be poet. Or male.
                              For a woman, make metaphors
                              larger—a prison might stretch
                              into a city. Other women must
                              believe in your confinement. To be
                              a woman is after all what?

A: To give. (3 out of 5 points... please, please, phrase your answers in full sentences.)


his removal keen and alert.
the patient, combined with stamina, did much
to prolong the direct cause of Houdini's system of death.

One day, my students looked through me.

                              —heard my blood creep
                              and stall, pressure
                              too low.
                              Asked was I sick.

this is particularly virulent.

How should I know that? May I ask them it now?
Now they’ve forgotten me over sour beer, their lovers’ stomachs, coffee?

the body was born on March 24, 1874.

                              It was pity. My black
                              periphery was showing. They never
                              imagined how often I
                              teeter at the edge of the language
                              I comb out of them like lice.


his name, the son of a rabbi.

                              It will be a winter birth.
I have been pregnant.
I tell them.


even before opening his first kitchen closet, it is certain
he showed fluidity as a "flight artist."

                              In the shower, yellow-white tears trail
                              off purpled aureoles: a dark factory
                              of thin sweet pus—I am
                              to feed them, also
                              this new one.

Some of them see me as captor. I am holding their future hostage.
Or I am puppet to some theater company, deserving of late work,
unsupported claims. I am not after all reality.

at the age of 9 joined a trapeze.

                              I am:
                              to drop the child from the sack that it may
                              sun itself, eat.

the first were bound inside themselves,
any bonds inspired Houdini somewhat.

Some female students wonder passively about my age, marital status, contagion.

                              New animals
                              control their wet slip onto ground.
                              Foals open a mare stark minutes before they walk.
                              Mare remains, must,

I think:                               I have had enough with children.


similarly, in the middle of handcuffs
the taunt: "If I go much longer—you will stay
on the usual hands.”

                              I whisper-pray to the fetus, please
                              do not attempt your own release.
                              My body is not something to be
                              fled. I am no fire.

I do not know what I am thinking. My fear in tatters.


his long series of shackles (70,000)
returned him broken from self-assassination.

                              I have heard of other mothers—
                              ones who dipped sudden, strange hands and lips
                              into the red and let their eyes
                                                            to bright to take.

Can my students comprehend the complexities of buried alive?
To emerge as something genius—or not emerge, but perhaps, then—do no harm?
they want an A.

skyscraper strait-jacket, from which
to the applause of the boat or bridge into a river,
by drowning or suffocation, a minute
or so, then a free man—vigorously.

Twenty-two eighteen-year olds have not learned to string between them
the tightrope of one living sentence.               I have not taught them.
The thought: throw myself down a flight of stairs.


in his early days
he used to seance: "I had gone around
the inscriptions and acquired a time
of gradually.” an exclaiming:
“throat is a body with shrieks”

                              I will cross between two worlds.
                              Schenectadies of pain and emergence.
                              I will suffer as cocoon, manacle.
                              I will lose a life into the air.

My students begin to ask—will I cancel the last paper, grade on what’s been done?
And what have you created?           I ask this without irony.


for thirty-three years Houdini
was anxious to believe
hundreds (fourteen of those
had ever counted)

Assignment: write your own obituary. Write it about someone you admire.


he risked his grave:
it gave him the first thrill of the irretrievable—
                              to waste a fraction of air
                              when every fraction was loose about his body
Houdini said      “I began to fail [it was]
                              yet another mistake”

                              that I am               useless               a vessel               essential

                              a vessel

                              that I won’t be capable                  am

                              that I am               no teacher

                              or that I have carried hatred      —beside a child

                              that I do not write               my child

                              that I will               damage             have already done

                              that I am not stronger       do not               hold faster

                              that these after all are irreversible


Houdini (describing the most narrow):
               my self-possession left me. it was a blinding blessing—chalky, wild-eyed—
               out of a shallow plot—my friends tell me I was a perfect
               imitation of rising.

The instructor (to her charges): I will breathe it only once

               I am also perfect

As soon as you can—





I did teach Houdini's obituary as part of a comp class. But the obituary wasn't current.