moon poem



We decided the dog will travel back and forth with the kids.

Shark-toothed weeds edged the moon pool,

and your brow creased as though dreaming.

There’s no point talking, you said,

if we’re going to get emotional.


Last night she lay across the threshold

of my bedroom as lunacy struck and shed

its merciless light.


My plan is to stick to routines. I choose

the wagging tail for my journey between the towers,

the lolling tongue.



For a couple of months now I’ve noticed this same card popping up over and over in my tarot readings. It’s not a bad way to begin a new year: a youngling leaving the nest, setting out on a journey into the unknown, trusting to luck. But the Fool can be unsettling card, too. I mean, just look at that cliff.


I looked up the Fool in Sallie Nichols’ book Jung and the Tarot and really liked what I found.

The Fool, archetypally speaking, is something of a shit disturber. He’s a truth-teller, but he doesn’t usually make much rational sense. In fact, disrupting reason is one of his primary functions in literature, especially where reason is being abused by those who seek power (e.g., in King Lear). Nichols points to the flower children of the 60s and the deadheads of the 70s as exemplars of the Fool’s playful-yet-serious anti-establishment impulse.

According to Nichols, literary tradition teaches us three ways to deal properly with the Fool: 1. Admit him at court and seat him at the royal table. In other words, be tolerant but keep a close eye on him. 2. Set aside periods of universal permissiveness and revelry: Saturnalia, Fastnacht, Mardi Gras, Feast of Fools. 3. Freely admit to and laugh at our own foolishness whenever it’s pointed out to us.

What am I supposed to do with this trickster? How do I embrace his playful, deregulating force for myself without letting it devolve me into shambles? Well, music seems to have something to do with it. Dancing, maybe. Certainly laughter.

My friend Rahul informs me that in the Baghavad Gita, Krishna (God) is a player, in several senses of the word. He fools around, he flirts, he flouts conventional morality. He knows that life is ‘leela’ (a play), and we mustn’t become too attached to our roles. It’s all fun and games. This is why Krishna plays the flute.

Hey, I thought, reflecting on all this, it might be fun to make a Fool puppet sometime. Then I remembered that I’d already done that 20 years ago. I dug him out of his box:


ace of cups poem


One is more stable than two.

With two there is a swirl of smoke,

a scattering of hand tools,

a Swiss file so fine it will snap.

Pass me the D-string, you say.

There, that packet with the black and gold lady.


Drops scatter,

the bird plunging straight down.

We drink bourbon with mint leaves.

We listen to the Dead, and I cannot

discern a single one of the words you love.


This beak-first idea

runs my cup over, or at least

keeps filling and filling it.


good art is contagious: students make fairy tales


It’s that time in the semester when I eat, sleep and breathe fairy tales. The students in the two sections of my Fairy Tales & Fantasies class have had some practice, by now, at identifying the common bloodlines from one variant to another and discerning how the different cultural contexts affect the stories. Class discussion is lively and insightful, particularly for the 8:00am start time.

They’ve also been making their own fairy tales. The Fairy Tale Redux assignment, worth 1/3 of their grade for the term, asks them to pick a tale, any tale, and re-mount it in whichever way they think will best illuminate something new about the story and show off their creative skills.

It’s harder than it sounds. There are time limits, adaptation challenges, group work frustrations, technical difficulties–and I insist they write an Artist Statement that justifies their approach on a theoretical and aesthetic level.

Sara Jo is a philosophy major who signed up for my course because she’s interested in knowing more about deep story structures in human psychology and culture. She is a gift to have in class: deeply curious, intellectually courageous, highly adept at thinking and speaking on her feet.

For her FT Redux, Sara Jo focused on Rapunzel. She wrote a free-verse meditation inspired by a specific claim in the Grimm Brothers’ variant: that Rapunzel sings from her window in the tower, and her song is what first attracts the Prince passing by in the forest. And Sara Jo decided to illustrate her poetry with hand-drawn tarot cards that capture the archetypal significance of key motifs in the story. What more can I possibly say about this?? You need to see it for yourself, right here:

as sibyl, she sang

two of wands

I seem to get this card all the time in my tarot readings. In my New Year’s spread it popped up in the Final Outcome position, as a supplement to the Page of Pentacles (if your final card isn’t a Major Arcana card you’re allowed to draw up to three additional cards for more info). Final outcome= What I’m heading towards, where I’ll end up.wands02

A well-dressed man holds a globe in his hand and looks over the parapet of his (?) castle out to the horizon. He seems to be contemplating his future: where to go next? What’s out there? Not a lot of action or conflict in this card. It’s a solitary scene, serene yet watchful. Everything depends on what’s heading his way over the sea, or what he might meet if and when he embarks.

Wands in general represent creative energy and inspiration. Twos in general represent pairing, duality, communication and/or choice. The interpretive consensus on this card is that it asks, Stay or go? Safety or adventure?

To me the choice is obvious. The man isn’t sitting by the fire, after all, surrounded by his riches or his children; he’s gazing out there, overlooking the world. It won’t be long before contemplation becomes action and off I go, questing after my next imaginative grail.

hanged man

Oh, this card! There he is, that guy, just hanging there upside down. *massive sigh*. Is it torture? A punishment? Crucifixion? Certainly, at this particular moment he doesn’t appear to be master of his own fate.


This is the card pointing to my “near future” experience in my New Year’s reading (see it here, and also read what I believe about how tarot cards work). You know in movies when the hero is running headlong through the jungle, and then he accidentally springs the rope snare and boinggg, he’s hanging upside down by one leg? That’s this card.

It’s a helplessness card, a waiting card. *another massive sigh*. It signifies being hung up, being forced to hang in there. When outward movement is suspended we have no choice but to turn inward.

The Hanged Man, number 12 of the major arcana, is part of the ego sequence- the path of discovering who we really are, of testing our resilience and our ability to hold it together under duress.

I’m told this is only tarot card associated with a specific myth. The Norse god Odin hung himself for nine nights from Yggdrasil, the tree of knowledge, in order to attain some special runes he’d been seeking.

Looking at it that way, maybe the Hanged Man isn’t so much about getting snared as about performing (or at least acquiescing to) a wilful self-sacrifice to attain insight. All that blood flowing to the brain must be good for something, right? And the enlightenment idea is visually underscored on the card by the man’s yogic posture and serene expression, to say nothing of the halo.

The world does look pretty interesting upside down.