The Magic Kingdom (Ghazal)

TIR Staff

We are delighted to present Rebecca Jefferson's poem "The Magic Kingdom (Ghazal)," winner of the David Hamilton Undergraduate Creative Writing Prize. This prize is sponsored by anonymous donors who wish to honor the mentorship and support they and other students at the University of Iowa received from Emeritus Professor of English David Hamilton. In addition to publication online, Jefferson will be awarded a $500 scholarship.


Disneyland is one of the most popular places in the world to spread ashes.

The janitors speak in code, they stand vigil behind bushes for ashes.


You can stuff them into pill bottles or makeup cases or inside tampon tubing

lug your dead body through security; it cannot detect the ashes.


She has a hand in her purse rubbing the cap of the pill bottle she put her brother in.

There, among the antidepressants she is trying to wean herself from, mix the ashes.


Janitor 1 sets upon his grisly work. His name is Carl,

the brother, not the janitor. The janitor is calling for a HEPA cleanup for the ashes.


HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air.

They say you cannot even breathe your dead at Disney; they have trapped the ashes.


They have trapped your dead brother Carl in a vacuum full of strangers.

This is no different from a ground full of strangers; it’s all ashes.


You wonder what will happen when the vacuum eats too many people.

When their happiness is as full as their grief, it will explode. On your tongue will melt the ashes.


Everywhere you turn at Disney there is two grimaces for every one smile.

It is right that the happiest place on earth should be the hottest. Here happiness singes, is ashes.


Your mother tugs your sleeve, wipes sweat off her brow, she says: Rebecca, it is done.

Uncle Carl is gone, and I have nothing left. Not even the ashes.


Rebecca Jefferson is a recent graduate pursuing a career in publishing. She lives in West Des Moines with her partner and their three cats.