We sat on the carpet in the bedroom
and I pulled between us that family heirloom,
a sea chest belonging, at one point, to some
grandfather or another, and we began
an apparently curtailed version
of the usual routine.
I wondered if that meant dire things
for my fate; as if all the events of my life
would be half as eventful, or if
there would be half as many of them, God forbid.
I can’t recall a particular atmosphere,
except that it was dim, and I guess
the old sea chest contributed
a bit of worn charm. And that same afternoon
I did burn some incense, but it could barely be smelled.
She asked, occasionally, for my involvement.
Tap one of these. Lay your hand on that.
And, uniquely in my life, I got the semblance
of controlling my destiny.
Soon enough, a picture began to form.
The five of cups: miserliness, a bearded man dressed royally,
alone atop a treasure trove, his children and former lovers
elsewhere, in loving penury, without a thought
for dear old stingy dad. The two of swords: some duality
out of the past, a war - always - between reason and love, and
how much I cherished them both. An awkward young man
who loved casually, without forethought and almost
without reason, and the brain he was far too proud of having
to use responsibly.
Finally, we reach the one in the center, and once again
I am required to invest some of myself in this card.
I hold my hand on it and am asked to imagine what it might be.
It is the Hermit. Her favorite, she explains.
He means a journey, alone. How alone, exactly?
Under normal circumstances, alone is a metaphor.
One can be alone in spirit, being not understood.
But you and I have been having arguments, and so
the implication is not lost on me.
How alone? And what journey? And to what end?
I imagine them, these arcana,
major and minor. They are collected
around a coffee table, for their weekly tea.
The Hermit holds up a pair of worn sandals
and a volume of sad amateur poetry -
the price of certain journeys -
the Lovers, their backs turned to one another,
produce a pitiful summary of a joint bank account.
The High Priestess takes from her tea cabinet
a samovar full of old dried blood, and pressed flowers
(lilies and lovers’ thistles)
and they all laugh and laugh and laugh
because they are not mortal, like us.