Susan Settlemyre Williams

Tarot was used as early as the 16th century to compose poems describing personality characteristics (tarocchi appropriati).
        —The TarotL Tarot History Information Sheet
Card VI, February 14, 2000
Rebecca, back in town two days, gives me
Madame Sosostris ... known to be
the wisest woman in Europe
a lunchtime reading from the deck she hides

in her purse in case of need. "This Prince of Swords...?"
Heroic action. Opposition and war.
Her green eyes narrow. No dark young man in my
dull life (but always one in hers, though she's
VI, The Lovers: Beauty. Perfection. A meaningful affair.
past fifty, same as me). Is there no card b. 1947
for middle-aged, bald men? There's not, but, "bald,"
she declares, "is sexy . . . except my ex. Cold fish." The Hierophant: Overt reserve.
The reading is supposed to be about
my professional prospects, but her hunger The lady of situations.
keeps showing up like trumps. Her latest lover's
back with his wife "platonically" "on account
of the kids." She's horny. "The Prince just might
be your own male energy," she decides. "Now go
The Empress: Ability to motivate others.
home to your husband. For my sake, the two of you
can have yourselves some afternoon delight." died of cancer, 6/29/02

Card XIII, January 7, 2001
We are practicing the spreads tonight, and Gretchen Queen of Wands: sincere interest in others. Element is Fire.
will only watch. Once more, her scans are bad.
She couldn't stand it if she drew the Death card.
We are using a sanitized deck, the number thirteen Abrupt change of the old self though not necessarily physical death
is labeled Transformation instead, but that
won't reassure her. She's met the final transformer.
Four years ago it ran its bony finger
along her gut, now tickles her ribs and tracks Illness, possibly death.
her down in dreams, sly crab or skeleton There is always another walking beside you
in sable armor. Tonight she wants to read if you see dear Mrs. Equitone
other stories. The next year trips abroad
for miracle drugs, the next she'll go to Ireland Fear death by water.
for Light Therapy, strange rays passing looking into the heart of light
through her, transformed before the thirteenth card. died 2/8/03
Tonight she'd settle for a game of Hearts—
one played against another, and someone wins.

Intermezzo: Major Arcana
There are twenty-two cards, and the Fool's not one,
but zero. The rest are trumps; last of all, the World, "triumphs"
The end result of all efforts.
twenty-one, and paradoxes abound:

A globe. The unknown woman is standing on it and worshipping the sun.
Anima mundi.
The Hanged Man hangs from his foot, upside down,
his other knee cocked. He's alive. (Italian,
fourteenth century, devised for games and not for
divination.) Temperance, the woman with pitchers,

The dreamer's mother is pouring water from one basin into another.
Theme of exchange.
or bottles, sometimes an angel, feet in the fountain, wash their feet in soda water
keeps company with Death and the Devil, neither of them
quite what it seems. Reversed, the cards stand all
meanings topsy-turvy like the Wheel o you who turn the wheel
of Fortune, quartered with Ezekiel's seraphim "These are attempts at being."
and rolling indifferently round. Strength: a lion
mastered by a girl. The Chariot does not run.
I like the Hermit with his lamp the best—Suzanne Knowledge. Vigilance. Withdrawal.
I, Tiresias,
was comforted by it when she was going blind.
died of complications of diabetes, 8/10/00

Cards XVI and XX, September 11, 2001
This part—I still don't know how to say . . . tongue cleave to the roof of mouth
all jagged pieces, like standing outside These fragments . . . against
a shattering window—needle-streaks of blood,
glass in my hair, a pain near the eye but no valley full of bones, very dry
sign of entry. Sun still shining, we're hundreds Satisfaction. Success. Pleasure in daily existence.
of miles from New York City. I drove and phoned

Unreal City.

Speak to me.
everyone. The blood-bank lines were so long crowds . . . walking round in a ring
I finally went home and laid out a spread,
hoping for prophecy because I couldn't cry.
I almost expected the broken Tower in flames— a la tour abolie
so literal, with the falling man and woman,

Complete and sudden change.
but it was Judgment, the angel, I drew, a surprise. Atonement. The need to repent.
Sky filled with wings and trumpet, the naked souls white bodies naked on the low damp ground
rising white from a mountain lake and meaning Rejuvenation. Rebirth.
what? Nothing as clear as the broadcast scenes Falling towers
of crumple and ash, bone-dust blackening it all.

under the brown fog

Card VII, July 13, 2002
It's months later, but the country's still spooked. That corpse you planted last year
At the Albuquerque airport, I'm Rebecca's mule, A voyage or journey.
in my backpack the carton of her ashes for the middle
child, who couldn't attend. Of course, I'm searched. Need to pay attention to details.
And searched again. My bag at check-in, the ash I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
before entering the concourse, again at the gate
(shoes and underwire bra suspicious, not
to mention my gimpy knee and reddened eyes).
Rebecca would swear the card I must have drawn
is the Chariot, sphinxes white and black responded gaily, to the hand
and pulling hard on diverging dusty tracks— Turmoil.
Trying to rein them in takes all my strength. I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
I couldn't cry before, but at the service
yesterday, I bawled among strangers; they wondered Urgency to gain control of one's emotions.
who and why, no doubt, and where I'd come from,
limping away with the ice-cream tub of dust. stumbling in cracked earth.

Samplings are from The Waste Land, the book of Ezekiel, Jung's Psychologie und Alchemie, the TarotL
website, and the instruction booklet accompanying the Universal Waite Tarot Deck. The form is stolen
from David Wojahn's "Crayola."