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The Magician

by Charlie Townsley

Waiting at the crosswalk,

I saw a magician today.

Displaying mastery of everyday magic.

He aimed a finger gun                 at the stoplight.

Point.               Shoot.               Voila.

Red                  to                     green.

Traffic stopped               a miracle.

The street transformed   

And I crossed.

Grandma would understand.

She who first taught me

the enchantments of cities.

From whose heart           I first learned

the routine miracles        of trains.

The conjuring                of construction sites.

The magnetism              of strangers

on common ground.

I remember riding the El

together            into Chicago

when I was young           enough

Not to understand          but to feel         

the city’s profound intricacy.

She taught me then,

that through the alchemy of shared space

everyone can charm common moments

into the sublime.


These lessons had dimmed.

But                   today

a crosswalk magician      reminded me of her.

And how every moment

can be magic.


About the Author: Charlie Townsley

Charlie Townsley is an organic farm boy from Wisconsin who, after getting a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Minnesota and practicing architecture in Minneapolis for a couple years, is now in his second year of Penn’s Master’s in City and Regional Planning program. Charlie’s program concentration is in Housing, Community, and Economic Development and he is passionate about all things related to community building and empowerment.

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