by Mary Mulholland

after Sigmar Polke’s painting ‘The Illusionist’

Her bedroom became her father’s darkroom.
Here he made magic, turned negative positive,
called her his special assistant. Closely
he focused on his assistant, taught her how
to work the developer, stop-bath, fixer, too,
left her with prints of the family history.
Downstairs with arms crossed sat her mother,
blindfold, still as the statue of a smiling cat.
Then one day, the same as most others,
the assistant opened her eyes: the hands
of the mantle-clock were spinning backwards,
as if time itself was saying, Go! She ran out,
heard a scrunch, saw a snail with its crushed
shell and a long sticky trail that led to all this.