I recently had my cards read. The woman, who for much of the time remained behind a beaded curtain and chain smoked, told me that my husband and I would separate within the year and that I had a family curse that was passed down through the female bloodlines. She told me that she could lift the curse if I came back and she performed a cleansing ritual. I found myself strangely affected by this, although rationally I told myself she was a charlatan. It was silly of me to go in the first place, but curiosity led me there after someone I know did a reading for free and mentioned something about a female specific plight that ran in my family. Very Brontesque I thought!
I never went back for my ritual cleansing, and about six months later my husband showed me an article in the newspaper stating that her business was shut down and she was convicted for stealing money from several of her clients.
Original line breaks in this poem will not fit - 3 lines to each stanza.
I stare at the cards: pointed arrows piercing flesh,
a woman hung upside down in a noose, knot drawn tight.
There is talk of a family curse passed down from my mother.
Like a hooded figure in a Bronte novel, I have inherited
a tragic fate, must walk a dark wooded terrain.
I cannot explain why I believe. My rational mind
alleging it is a modern day parlour trick, a perceptional
slight of hand. In weakness, I cry.
She offers me light, tells me I can be saved.
Stars do battle over my soul, but the curse can be lifted
if I return every Tuesday, pay her fifty dollars more.
Her face obscured by a beaded curtain,
the shining crystal balls dangling from the ceiling’s sky,
like so many planets.
Still dressed in a robe, although two in the afternoon,
she asks if I mind that she smokes. I do, but do not say.
Jesus presides over the reading, his arms outstretched.
She pats the head of her ceramic god like a good luck charm,
reaches for me from behind cascading beads, takes my empty
hand, asks me to pray.
This modern-day gypsy asks me to trust her, to cut cards
and imagine a future she has spun. Painted nails click
as our planet orbits the universe, indifferent
to Pisces’ constellations.
A tiny star among other points, too vast to comprehend.
We bend our necks in prayer,
invent worlds and stories to sustain us.
She and I are the same, a poet and a storyteller, believing
in trickery, the ability to beguile. The difference is motive.
There are those who seek profit, and those who ask
to alter perceptions, to look at a beaded curtain,
see the universe suspended on a shimmering string of light.