Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 109, Jul – Sept 2017
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130

D.G. Geis
followed by Bio and Q&A

This sleight of hand 
called life—

the wives 
we make disappear 

and children 
we pull out of hats.

The parents who, over time, 
we saw painlessly in half

and the complicated knots 
that untie themselves. 

The doves and serpents 
pulled from Jehovah’s empty sleeve

to misdirect 
the mischief of our making:

the compassion we feel 
for a rag in the road 

believing it to be 
a squashed puppy.

Or the cock killed for Asclepius
to thank Houdini God,

our Chained Magician 

in his locked box.

D.G. Geis is the author of Fire Sale (Tupelo Press/Leapfolio) and Mockumentary (Main Street Rag). Most recently, his poetry has appeared in The Irish TimesFjordsSkylight 47 (Ireland), A New Ulster Review (N. Ireland), Crannog Magazine (Ireland), The Moth, (Ireland), Into the Void (Ireland), The Kentucky Review, The Tishman Review, and Under the Radar (Nine Arches Press UK). He was shortlisted for both the 2017 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize (Ireland) and the 2017 Percy French Prize (Strokestown International Poetry Prize, Ireland). He divides his time between Houston and Galveston, Texas. 

This is one of those rare poems that came to me whole. It doesn’t happen very often, but it occurred to me that life, like writing poetry, is very much like pulling things out of a hat. I may have an idea where I want to begin, but the poem usually works its way around me and my idea of what it should be. In that sense, poetry is more a kind of self-erasure than self-expression. I’m a big believer that poetry is a form of illumination. Like the Greeks, I believe that truth needs to be “revealed.” It’s not something we find on our own. Socrates certainly had that view. And that’s also where the reference to “the cock killed for Asclepius” comes from. If I really knew what I was doing, I’d probably stop doing it!

What is your #1 pet peeve?
Folks who are rude to wait staff in restaurants or act boorishly towards people they think are beneath them. I think of Dr. Johnson’s observation that “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." I think being the same person all the time (i.e. consistency of character) rates high in my hierarchy of virtues.

What is your favorite article of clothing?
A nice hat works for me. A sports cap, a beret, or a cowboy hat. I spent a good part of my life on a ranch in Texas, and a hat is essential.

What book have you read from beginning to end more times than any other?
Probably Henri Coulette’s The War of the Secret Agents and Other Poems. IMHO, Coulette and Weldon Kees are probably the two most underappreciated poets in American literature. What keeps me coming back is Coulette’s ability to turn minor detail into major feeling. He’s a formalist who chose interesting subjects. Read, for instance, the elegy for his cat titled “Petition.” A masterpiece with only eight lines and one of the very few poems I consider perfect.