Daily Archives: April 17, 2015

Tales Of A Tarot Deck

Originally posted as “Stories From The Deck,” 12/29/2011.

I read the cards myself
but not often these days,
and no longer for anyone else.  

I have to be “in the mood,” and
I’m only in that mood
when I am utterly alone.

You ask, are they parlor trick
or font of wisdom?
Fool, who says one thing can’t be both?

If you hold them one way
they shine, another way
they blind.

The map is not the territory
but now and then the map is where
you have to make camp.

I was taught to read the cards
by a woman who could not read the cards.
It took me one spread to learn this:

staring into the pattern I felt
a mansion rising on the table before me,
my best possibility dwelling within it,

even as my mentor droned on about
paths not taken, choices to be made,
a trip over water I should not take.

It wasn’t long before I was sitting in bars
cold reading for strangers
in exchange for drinks;

sitting in living rooms
cold reading for strangers
in exchange for cash;

sitting in a strange kitchens
hot reading for a stranger,
hoping for sex;

sitting in bedrooms
reading for myself,
imagining myself as a stranger.

If you think, they fail you.
Just go with the story
that comes to you

and follow it
no matter where
it goes. That’s why I’m here.

Nowadays when I play with cards
it’s more often penny-ante poker
in a basement.

I surely miss
the Hermit, the Star,
and the Sun.

When the Jack Of Hearts
shows up in my hand,
I remember how good he used to look.

He used to call himself 
the Knight Of Cups. I remember how good 
it used to feel to see him in my hand.

I’ve been over water a few times in my life.
Once upon a time in a Venice bookstore
I almost bought a new deck

just for old times’s sake, but the woman
muttered something 
and shook her head

when I pointed,
so I walked out before
anything odd could happen,

but I’ve lived
happily ever after anyway,
I guess.

They tell you
your first deck
should be a gift.

Mine was.  I still have it.
All the others were my own choices,
and they’re all gone.

I should end, I suppose, with predictions. So:
two countries will go to war
and one will win.

Two lovers will meet, part, spend their days
recasting what happened
until in retrospect they can say

the signs were clear. An old man
will die, and so will a young one,
and a child and a dog and a tree.

Someone’s going to act a Fool
while being utterly certain and alone
on a path they devote themselves to walking,

and a deck of ratty cards
will be picked up
and rewrapped in silk 

while congratulations
and mystic chatter
echo all around. 


Kid Fishing Versus The World

Kid fishing was the one thing
I had, back when I had
so little.

My awkwardness
with the girls I liked drove me
to the pond in the woods
to be alone. I’d stuff my pain
down in my rucksack with the pad
I was starting to carry everywhere
even then. I’d thread a worm onto
a snelled hook and cast out beyond
the drainpipe into the cove
and almost always bring up
a scrappy perch to be tossed back
like a bad pickup line, over and over,
all afternoon, every afternoon,
all summer long.  
I wasn’t happy
but I was less sad.

Adult fishing? Now
that’s different, softer,
less serious. I don’t go often
and when I do I mostly drink, 
cast a line now and then
for the sake of the art, never
catch a thing, and
write down stories about
what got away,
even though I’ve no idea 
of what lives here.

Still awkward?
Not so much. 
The most awkward
I feel when I fish these days 

is when
I dip into 
the so-cold-it’s-hot stream

to pull up beer and brandy
from where I stash it
in the deeper pool behind
Lion’s Head Rock, just out of
the main current, and I drop 
the bottles, sometimes
even breaking one — that’s

a bad day adult fishing,
which is still better
than a good day
doing almost anything else I can name

with the exception of kid fishing,
which I can never do again,
which (when I was a kid)
I never thought of as happy,
though it is all I can ever think of
when I’m asked for a happy memory.