Between Death and the Devil: Tarot Poems

Temperance stands between Death and the Devil —
she balances the world,
mitigates the pull to hell,
accepts the dead into a deeper, sweeter underworld.

To all things constant ever,
she drips with jewels and pomegranate seeds —
who else could reconcile
such fierce, frenetic types of love?

Between Death and the Devil: Tarot Poems is out now, and I’m giving away copies for free over at StoryOrigin! There’s a poem for each of the tarot cards, written during my study of tarot. Originally published as a zine containing only the Major Arcana, I delayed publishing this project in order to add poems for all the Minor Arcana.

It’s also available on Amazon, if you’d like to buy it instead. The paperback edition will be out shortly.

If you’d like to support me without giving a cut to our corporate overlords, download the book for free on StoryOrigin, then head over to my newly minted Ko-fi page to buy me a hot beverage.

Last week’s snippets

Last week I wrote a few poems, a few meditations, and a whole lot of a self-indulgent gothic romance. Here are a few of my favorite snippets.

A mask I’m working on. It’s currently made entirely of glue from a hot glue gun.

A. You can want for nothing and still be unwanted. This was a thought that had crossed Evangeline’s mind at least once a week since her sixteenth birthday. Before that, she had small chance of noticing anything wrong with her little world. She’d had a caring nurse in Mrs. Fisher, then a kind governess in Miss Tulle. What had it mattered that her father rarely glanced her way? Why would she care if her mother seldom came back from town?


B. write about it

that moment you edge around

as if tracing the outline

can color the void


C. I want my house to tell you what you won’t learn from my lips. From the mask on the front door grinning with pride, spells spilling from his eyes, to the smell of rot emulsifying in the stomachs of my worms. Maybe you’ll spot the Venus fly traps, or maybe you’ll see a few flies and wonder what kind of mess you’ve befriended.


Tell me which intrigues you the most- a, b, or c. It may influence what I choose to continue.

Portrait for Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

Shape me.
Chisel me up some accomplishments.
Don’t erase this mind with those smooth Sargent strokes
trading a life for an eternal raised eyebrow
replacing a well-woven history
with a few lines about beauty. 

Don’t neglect the indents in my flesh —
the armchair grasped too tightly
reupholstered in silk and nervous twitches.
Carve my jaw hard like I grind it at night
but whittle whales into the bone

Remind me
what’s soft in a body
can also be strong
can also be buoyant

K. D. Hume

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, John Singer Sargent, 1892. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

I came upon this portrait during a birthday trip to San Francisco. It was part of a traveling exhibition that I entered on a whim, the weather outside leaving much to be desired. I’d seen the painting online before, might have even read a book or two that used it for cover art. But in that gallery, on that day? I fell in love. I’d never seen an aristocratic woman given this kind of agency in a formal portrait. This much personality.

What a force to be reckoned with, I thought. And I had to know more.

So, I researched her, and I researched Sargent, standing there in front of the painting in a crowded gallery. My respect for both the painter and the subject grew, and I wrote this poem. Years later, I’m still just as captivated as the day we met.

Pacific Northwest Gothic: A Template

 

  1. We start with fear and end with the fantasy. First, there is a corpse on a riverbank. Later, she dances on a stage with red velvet curtains.
  2. The North decays just as well as the South, but in deceptive ways. You won’t smell the body rot coming from the forest over the scent of pine and rain. You won’t be able to tell if the seal is resting on the beach, or has washed up with eyes already eaten out. You won’t see our poverty under our technological gleam, but everything rusts in the rain.
  3. There is no difference between a monster and a predator besides literary conceit. A man need not be overly clever to kill hundreds, if no one is watching. A demon is a man until he is a demon. Until he cannot be explained. Until we do not want to explain him.
  4. You cannot trust the light. It will leave.
  5. Fantasy is a false denouement. The fantasy is the mouth of an ouroboros: a snare to bring you back to the fear. A predator can be caught, or killed, or imprisoned. A monster cannot. A monster lives where mirror meets glass, where mind meets sleep.
  6. Like monsters, we can survive only in the liminal. Horror we can handle, as long as the macabre is fantastic as well. Like the bullied children we once were, we dream up magic to glorify our wounds.