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195th Weekly Poetry Contest winner: A Dangerous Reading

by Bruce Boston

Being a lady of diverse preoccupations,
primarily preternatural, Madame Tarot
turns her head from the street and
tells me that anything is possible.
We pass the pipe from hand to hand.
The rain rallies against the window,
softly blurring hillsides and trees.

"Darjeeling or jasmine?" she asks,
pouring from a single pot inlaid
with gold symbols on black slate.
Perhaps I have visited here more
than once too often, watching the
cards shift in the yellow lamplight.

Down the stairs shambles her pet
and familiar. Today its shaggy
coat of chameleon fur is the
pale rust of old blood stains.
It shakes itself and curls up
on the rug before the fire.

Not for the first time I wonder
what species and sex this creature
could be, but I'll not be the one
to investigate. It outweighs me
by at least twenty pounds and
I have seen rows of razor teeth
glistening in its mercurial coat.

Madame Tarot moves about the room,
drawing shades against the daylight,
switching on a lamp with a fringed
shade to counter the sudden dimness.
She lights the pomegranate incense,
Her hands unfold the velvet cloth.
At moments like this I am sure
she is The Hierophant, Reversed.

She shuffles and riffles the deck.
A blast of wind shakes the window
in its frame and the old house groans.
Her pet stretches and yawns and gives
me a hostile glance. Its coat darkens.

I raise the cup to my lips carefully
and watch the cards begin to turn.

*appeared in New Myths

See all the entrants to 195th Weekly Poetry Contest