Family Spell
Jeff Friedman

Under the crescent moon, I tricked the evil magician into undoing the spell on my family. My father burst from a rock, his black hair shiny with Wildroot. My mother kicked off her blanket of dirt and rose to kiss me on the forehead, her hands stained with the juice of stalks and roots. My sisters blossomed from the lilies, and my brothers stopped oinking and shed their hooves and cloven tongues, embracing each other. How long do you think this will last? the magician asked, laughing. There was something wrong. They were happy to see me, happy to be together. I saw a small bird on the branch of a bush and caught it in the cup of my hands. What did you do, I asked. The magician acted cool at first as if didn't matter, but when I squeezed the bird, threatening to crush it, he turned pale. "Stop, he cried out. "I'll give you what you want." Instantly, my father and mother started shouting. My sisters flew at each other like hawks. And my brothers grappled, falling to the ground and clamping each other in a death grip. A big wind came up raising dirt and dust. The crescent moon rocked back and forth. I flung the bird so high into the clouds that the magician vanished, and then I jumped into the fray, ready to kill the whole bunch.

Jeff Friedman has published six poetry collections, five with Carnegie Mellon University Press, including Pretenders (2014), Working in Flour (2011), and Black Threads (2008). His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England ReviewThe Antioch ReviewPoetry International, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Plume, Agni Online, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Storyscape, Smokelong Quarterly, The Vestal Review, 100-Word Story, The New Republic, and many other literary magazines. Dzvinia Orlowsky's and his translation of Memorials by Polish poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Friedman and Orlowsky were awarded an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016.

more by Jeff Friedman:
White Bird