1. Le Diable (state of mind)
The master often rides a grey horse,
one of a matched pair. Though she’s not built to perform in the ring
or execute the airs,
she’s been schooled for difficulty and distance.
She has a fiery nature,
can wear easy grooves in stone floors,
but wears reigns well,
doesn’t have to be urged on with crop or heel, knows just when to turn
loose. He takes her through fields,
darkness, into the unknown,
where she is surefooted, reflexively calm,
keenly shifts to distribute weight on her back,
breathes in her rider’s mood.
In wide spaces, she’s wind-whipped,
jubilant, opens her stride,
moves so fast and far away
it thrills him a bit to think he’ll beat her
but she always finds the way back home.
2. L’amoureux (finance)
I will never be too poor
to pack picnics
small surprises to be consumed
with pleasure and joy
in good company
on walks through cool woods
floating around stone circles
through battlefield grasses
grown tall on revolutionary blood.
This is how I was raised
and everything else just falls away.
I’ve dropped stones along the way
and cross the threshhold with empty pockets,
leave the old garden of delights for a brighter one.
Though I can find my way back, I won’t.
These humble markers will guide someone coming the other way.
3. Le Soleil (day-to-day-relationships)
When the veil is lifted,
you will see an ordinary woman
with an ordinary man
living an extraordinary life
filled with everyday magic, infused with art,
coinciding circumstances that we see
when others are blind. Cardboard boxes,
tree canopies and hammocks to unwind
a well-crafted tale or beautiful memories
quiet museums where we can travel as far as our minds can reach,
even when our bodies are hemmed in.
My closet is filled to overflowing
and jewelry is not a need,
but bright paint, spontaneous laughter,
hot, secret sex, poetry & endless rivers of wine & late-nights,
card games, public pools,
rich shades of friendship,
somber city sounds, traffic pitting skilled and unskilled driver,
dark sides & flirting,
not ever giving up on dreams,
things baked & eaten at home,
starting & finishing work days,
footpaths & telescopes
laundry & orange oil,
cats that sleep curled through badly played sonatas,
spring air at night, birds in morning,
breast feeding & night sweats,
fits of rage or passion,
the pleasure of children in dirt, taking care of business & paying off debt,
addressing issues in
a double-helix of inspiration & creation that flows despite the mundane,
these things are the four elements,
& when fame and infamy visit,
they’ll stay in the guestroom.
4. La Force (family, home life)
–Images from The Battle of Lake Peipus
Troops advance across thin ice,
heavy horses crunch,
breath sounds are Teutonic bellows
and heat sinks each row lower than the one that trod before.
They slip slightly,
metal clanks and echoes
over a see-sawed lake, thawed and frozen
back and forth through winter,
soon to be liquid again.
Sculpted waves crash back, white puffs against this cold crusade.
Horns crackle, distorted.
They’ve seen detached, brave archers and rush ahead.
Sunrise slickens surfaces, fighting hand to hand.
Carmine minutes pass before fresh bows and lighter horses break
across the shoreline on either side.
I’ve followed my brothers here, in disguise,
and tear into the charge,
fleet footed, seeking out rivals,
others hidden, matching me in size
and courage. Beneath their armour though, it’s hard to tell
boy from woman
wearing warrior well.
There are no rules and we’ll do anything
to fell invaders from their mounts,
pull stirrups. Reigns
tugged cause bits to bite the sides of horses’ mouths,
unseat the surest of them
so we can wrestle on the ground,
unmask her with guttural, feminine sounds.
My cause is worthy of the risk,
defending home and hearth,
freedom to believe and practice as we see fit
and when the ice breaks beneath her head,
I don’t think twice to hold her neck
beneath the shallow water her last breath slips
from tired lungs
until the struggling stops.
I stand wounded for a minute,
and know I’ve won.
5. La Lune (love and romance)
So this is April,
just past the month of madness,
thirty-one days of avoidance, denial
riding heavy on the breaks,
loud birds that screamed of lust have been sated
mostly. Sun slants again
and wakes me early
with bull-sticky fingers, bright paint
on such large canvasses.
Pens break, ink blots
I run toward. Loud music,
driving wind-socked, my heart almost skips beats
and I know why.
We are epic and uncharted, so stop.
The Yucatan arose when we plummeted from the sky.
6. La Justice (work and health)
I was handled carelessly,
tried death twenty times
before the age of five
and after that nothing seemed exciting
for a while. Work was putting
one foot in front of the other,
seeing each day with the rawness of a new soul,
not even God seemed to really hear me
when I cried and I knew
with certainty he wouldn’t pull me
from the fire, I’d have
to get myself to the other side,
use all the strength I inherited
to focus within,
to keep moving, one foot in front of the other,
to rest and safety
waiting at the end.
7. L’Hermite (relationships)
I put on my coat and walked out one day to clear my head. Thoughts had been spreading like river-ice cracking, unnecessary movement, loggers pushing too many logs down square chutes too early on still chilly April days. My shoes were lucky-footed cats, fat-pawed tree-shredders themselves, diviners that drew me to places I knew I needed to be and said, “Be wise and be still.” So I rested on a bench in a park with little sound but much to see.
My shoes untied themselves from my feet and turned into a tiger. My head split and from my brain emerged a monkey. Bracelets jangled from my arm and chained the two to a cage. The quick-minded monkey clambered to the top of the cage and tucked his tail. The energetic tiger paced beneath him, restlessly, smelling the monkey and wanting to eat him. It seemed that the monkey and the tiger were caught this way for a very long time hanging and pacing, the monkey wanting to tease the tiger and the tiger wanting to devour the monkey. The only noise the silvery clanking of their chains.
I curled tightly into my coat waiting for disaster, but my coat unfurled from me and turned into a gray serpent that wove itself around and about the bars of the cage and whispered to the tiger and the monkey, “Be wise and be still. Choose fierce protection and whimsical inspiration over rapid consumption and merciless taunting.” And the tiger recognized the truth in this: that the monkey’s companionship would always keep her amused and motivate her to keep moving – even if she did have occasional thoughts of devouring him. And the monkey recognized the truth in this: that the tiger would keep him on higher ground and frighten away those who might want to change the monkey into a dancing pet – even if he did sometimes have the urge to throw his shit at her.
Then truth melted the cage and chains to silver ink, and the snake hardened into a needle that drew itself around me and I felt full and wise and still.
8. Le Monde (transformation)
The world is a blue-roofed pagoda
floating in a shallow pond
and I am but a little bird
wading carefully around it on delicate bird feet,
lifting each webbed foot
from mud to surface
and back again,
approaching each of the eight arched entrances
but never going inside
because I have no need to enter.
My pleasure and purpose
lie in circling this fixture,
creating ripples that expand and expand
until they are nothing,
and the blue-roofed pagoda
does not exist from them any more.
Yes, I am the little bird
who circles and circles
for I am well-fed –
if I want to eat –
if I need shelter,
and a creator of infinite wet ripples.
I can breach sound if I want to,
but my throat has no need.
The soft suck of my feet
lifting themselves from the mud
is the only sound I hear
and it fills my tiny, feather-covered avian ears
I am a little bird,
wings carefully folded,
dancing through shallow water,
around the beautiful blue pagoda,
full of learning.
9. L’Emperatrice (spirituality and travel)
My new daemon is a runner too, urges
me long-legged to pursue flight, lap airports
where watery dreams of Zen accrue,
and when I’m still,
beats away funky blue leanings, thoughts
of places we’ve called home before,
where there are roads we know
and certain people.
Yeah, she’s fast these days.
Baby got some brand new groove shoes
that fit so well. She paces me,
reaches in to grab the wheel.
Another wears only the best from my closet,
pulls things out that I’ve saved
for special occasions. Clothes
that don’t even fit her rip at the seams.
She stuffs her feet into shoes that can’t be replaced,
wears down the heels,
scuffs everything up a little more
so I don’t seem so bright penny new.
I can’t deny
their demands of me, though they are stingy –
juiced on sudden slumber, expensive
cotton-mouthed commitments –
they’re no theory queens – it’s all about the action,
delivering bruises to my fender but not my knees,
and they’ve been with me a while,
dressed for all occasions.
It’s still light outside, it’s almost light outside
and I’m driving and crying like the song.
Smiling near the airport.
For the third time in a row.
Useless bitches can’t tell me how I got here
or how to get home.
There are no other cars on the road.
Above me, a plane is heading west
but I don’t want to be on it
today. Ask me tomorrow, and I may
answer differently. Today I am tethered,
can’t see them so I know I’m safe.
10. Le Bateleur (ambition, skill)
On the drive down to work today I was thinking about skill and ambition and what I am actually good at. I drive a lot and consider myself to be pretty good behind the wheel – even better actually after I’ve had a few drinks. Which is a bit sad, but I guess that makes me a pretty good drinker too. Had quite a bit of practice at it and practice makes perfect. Hmmm, I guess sex would be skill number three because I’ve had a lot of that too. Now, when I read my own writing, I realize that I sound like an imitation of someone else I know, so number four might be pretending to be other people/acting/mimicry. And for those of you who might be reading who don’t know me, this is entirely tongue-in-cheek, so I can list sarcasm as skill number five. I smile a lot while I am doing all of these things and people often tell me that I have a nice smile. If I can add smiling as a skill, I’d like to. Smiling, drinking, having a car and sarcasm allow me to meet other people pretty readily when I feel like it. Lots of times, they tell me their entire life story within the first few minutes of our conversation. This can be a bit much to handle so I try not to do this to other people right away. Is that considered being a good conversationalist/listener? On a good day, I can play cards, drink, listen and sing at the same time. I have been known to do these things in other countries while wearing only the things that I carried in one bag. Okay, so those are the party skills.
Since I party sometimes, I have to make it up by trying to take care of my body. These days that translates into running and participating in yoga-like activities (Note to yogis: I admire you so much for your skill. I am not anywhere close to being there and one of my fears is breaking my neck so I probably never will “get there” if you know what I mean.) I can return tennis balls but not consistently. I’ve ridden some nags in my time and I’ve never been thrown from a horse, but if I were really smart I wouldn’t say never because I’ve felt the urge to ride lately. (Haven’t been horse-crazy since before I was boy-crazy – and I won’t even tell you when that transition occurred.) H-O-R-S-E is one of my favorite gym memories, by-the-way, and I can dribble but I am way out of practice. I played soccer, field hockey and lacrosse growing up and got field time on a regular basis. I like hitting and catching things with sticks and have the dents on my shins to prove it. My dad swam for his supper and ours so I had excellent instruction in that area too. Sometimes I enjoy diving into the shallow end but I don’t like to test fate too often. My skill level is beginner to intermediate when it comes to serious “outdoorsy” stuff. I can bait a line and shoot a gun and put together a tent and probably have some funny pictures floating around to prove it.
On to the day-to-day stuff…laundry. I am a mean sorter and I enjoy ironing. My closet is very organized and very well-edited. I can cook as long as I don’t try to read or do other things at the same time because then I burn things. I’m kind-of out of practice right now because I don’t get any real pleasure in cooking for myself so anyone who eats from my table be warned. I do make my bed and have decent interior decorating skills – what’s that called, “a good eye,” for things? I am capable of making minor repairs even though I’d rather not, and I have a great book that my friend J. gave me that’s basically a single woman’s guide to being Rosie the Riveter. I’ve held various jobs since before I could drive – everything from babysitting to recruiting – and I’ve never been fired. What are we on? 17? I am employable. I can make myself get up every morning if I must and get through the work day without shutting down a network or making my co-workers cry. (Believe me, I’ve worked for some really crazy women and this is something to be proud of!) When I think about it, I even remember their birthdays and their children’s names.
So, that brings me to the arts. I am a reader. Love to fucking read. I write too. Mostly poetry even though I used to develop all sorts of plot scenarios as a child – complete with sketches of the characters. The drawings weren’t very good. I like paint-by-number paintings and taking pictures of things. Sometimes the pictures turn out surprisingly well. I like to create collages with things I find. Ripping up formerly meaningful things and reconstructing them gives me great pleasure. Sometimes these collages turn out surprisingly well. I play the piano – reading or sight reading – but I don’t improvise. Sometimes things I play sound pretty good, at least to me. (Side note: I played the saxophone and bassoon around middle-school age but didn’t have enough rhythm for the sax and quit bassoon when I found out I’d have to play percussion in marching band. What was I thinking? I’d have made a helluva good drummer, but I absolutely cannot march, read music and play anything all at the same time. This also ruled out musical theater for me). I sing sometimes. I used to sing a lot more but someone I really cared about once told me that I made everything sound like opera so I stopped singing for a while. I’ve worked through that and take great pleasure in opening up a can of Maria Callas every now and then and I like to improvise with my voice. What have I left out? Oh yes, dancing. Oddly enough for someone who has had very little formal dancing instruction, I am a pretty good dancer, especially after a few drinks. Wow, I love it when things come together like that!
Now, when I think about having a good time, maintaining the day-to-day stuff, sportiness and the arts, I automatically think about my family and friends– both immediate and extended. We’re a pretty well-rounded bunch. Decent looking I suppose (I know, I know. Looking good isn’t really a skill) I think we are all literate. Lots of wild cards but that’s what makes people interesting, right? I hope I do a pretty decent job at maintaining lines of communication with family members and friends who are scattered all over the place, that I’m in sync with my siblings and don’t have any major parent issues that I’m aware of. (Awareness is key people, so please let me know if I’ve missed something –aight? On second thought, maybe it’s better if you don’t. Wink, wink.) I also apologize to any of my more conservative family members who might be reading this and wondering about the sex and drinking. For your peace of mind, just know that I’ve never taken either to jail or to the professional level and, since this essay is also about ambition, I don’t plan to.
Wow – I’ve spent lots of space working on the assumption that I have skills. As for ambition, who gives a fuck? I’m too busy being to worry about that.
11. La Roue de la Fortune (projects, supports)
Knees slowly numb under unquiet thoughts.
It takes effort to maintain,
chose to cradle, cut meniscus cookies in wooden floorboards
through rugs, whaling. There is uncomfortable power
in the shaggy head-shaking though,
knowing someone, somewhere in the world
wags the other way, slow beat of butterfly wings,
kids on a seesaw.
Thump. Sky. Thump – again the crunch of knees –
air, blue sky. Free thoughts that are better for all involved,
for a second, balancing with no feet on the ground.
held breath in contest. Who will go down first?
Can we stay like this for a while? Ah aha ah aha small hip shifts
cool caves of space, one for each of us.
The trees, birds and bees aren’t moving. Air stills but
I’ll come out of myself and send
light in weight, left-hooked releases
that send me higher and higher.
Will you breathe in? I will try to hold my
breath forever and ever and ever and ever,
swim to the other side, breath through water
until I move again, silver-lunged salamander
running on a pottery wheel.
The bowl’s edge tilts, almost collapses.
Clay thinks of grass blades
and has to hold them upright.
Hands don’t ever need to touch material.
Will spins wheel.
12. La Mort (obstacles, challenges)
I was a fearless child—
reckless with shells and their inner softness
thought sheltered parts existed only to be offered
greedy and immediate, devoured them
with sauce and relish
until nothing was left but pretty shells,
things to be gilded
heraldic Sabine symbols—
loved every meal.
I became skilled in choosing, quietly
foraging, doing what I was supposed to do,
sent natural signals,
bought for the lazy,
and the lazy came in droves, saved all their energy to
fight for nourishment I’d found.
Oh, but I am a quick learner.
Once fear was learned, I clung to the lesson,
squeezed every last drop from it,
even picked bad food for fun, for a while.
But then I grew tired, found
caverns for restoration
forgot the cardinal rule,
and slowly cut off my own limbs