Sleight

by Jesse Cheng

It was a master illusionist’s feat, these levitated silences that I never knew were, until they weren’t. Even the trick’s unraveling dazzled: the kinetic cascade of flash and clatter as knives spilled from the kitchen counter; shard sculptures from smashed plates and glasses, balanced in impossible configurations across the floor. And when during my few years of life had my mother swallowed the fire now roaring from her throat? I sometimes wonder how it came undone. Perhaps a momentary lapse of control. Or a sudden impatience with the staging, the tense fragility of it all. More amazing, though, was the act that followed…brand new objects, conjured from nothing! Behold, dishes with unfamiliar patterns reversing the scatter of destruction! Fresh silences rigged aloft, suspended with understandings imperceptible to the naked eye! But then there were the knives. These were slipped back into their allotted slots in the worn wooden block, ready for reuse. Yes, I think I remember it correctly: The things that cut, they remained the same.

Jesse Cheng is from Southern California. His website is jesse-cheng.com.

What is and isn’t “sleight” about writing compressed prose?


    Both employ maneuvers of craft to accomplish certain realities. But whereas sleight distracts, manipulates, and evades to fabricate stand-ins for the truth, compressed prose doesn’t mind having (sometimes, even begs to have) its artifices made plain in seeking exposure of its own, particular truths.

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