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Thursday, November 30, 2006

"The Three Tarot Cards," Part Two: A Healing Spell for Odell

By Laura Stamps

Restless from her puzzling tarot card
reading, Ravena decides to drive
downtown and explore the neighbor-
hoods clinging to the mountains of
the city. Each narrow street hugs
the curve of a mountain, while drive-
ways shoot up at an angle or plummet
straight down. On the sloping side
of the street, mailboxes rise higher
than the roofs of homes that sprawl
large and spacious, most perched
on stilts, each with a wooden bridge
leading from the front door to the
road. High fences and thick masses
of trees and shrubbery surround the
mansions at the top of the mountains,
some resembling castles carved from
rock, painted in sunny pastel shades.

Winding through these mountain
neighborhoods, Ravena realizes
she must keep her mind focused
on the last tarot card, The World,
if she hopes to discern its meaning
in her life, to manifest its prophecy
of success and abundance. Quickly
she creates a chant for her intent:

“Wise Athena, thank you for your magic.
Open my eyes, guide this blessed chant.
Abundance and success shall manifest.
The World will bring me only the best.”

Wild onions bow their heads to the
setting sun as Ravena walks back
to her room after dinner, every step
a tonic for cramped muscles after
a long day of driving. Rain curtains
one of the mountains, and the dark
sky reflects the same shade of gray
she chose when painting the deck
last spring. Instantly, clouds part
for the sun, and a rainbow stencils
its bright hoop over the murky sky
in scarlet, tangerine, yellow, green,
blue, indigo, and violet, this looping
spectacle so wide Ravena finds
color variations smudged in between
the usual spectrum. For several
minutes the rainbow towers before
her, a perfect semicircle. One side
closed, the other forever open.

When she walks through the door
of her hotel room the telephone
rings. “I know you’re coming home
tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait,” Odell
says, his voice laden with misery.
“I feel awful.” Sitting on the edge
of the bed, Ravena asks, “Are you
ill?” Odell groans. “No, not really,”
he replies. “It’s just that everything
bothers me.” Ravena smiles, glad
he can’t see her expression. “Could
you do a healing spell for me?” he
asks. “Anything, please, I’m so tired
of this.” Ravena laughs. “It’s not
funny!” Odell shouts, frustrated.
“I know,” she replies, thinking about
The Star. “This reminds me of a
tarot card I drew last night.” She
reaches for her bag of magical tools
and unzips the top. “I’ll be happy to
cast a healing spell for you, Sweet-
heart,” she says. “Great,” he replies,
and begins to complain about his job
and the cats as he walks into the
kitchen to search the freezer for
a snack. “Honey,” Ravena says,
“we need to cover all the magical
bases.” She hears him open the
freezer door. “Before leaving for
work tomorrow, go into my office,
open my cabinet of magical supplies,
and find a short length of red ribbon,”
she says. “All the ribbons in there
have been blessed with holy water.”
Odell pries the top off a cardboard
container of soy ice cream. “Pin it
to your shirt pocket to ward off the
Evil Eye,” Ravena continues. Odell
scrapes the last spoonful of ice cream
from the carton and throws it in the
trash. “Okay,” he replies, smacking
his lips. “I can do that.” Ravena
smiles at his sudden cooperation.
“Then I’ll cast a healing spell for
you tonight, and you’ll feel much
better tomorrow morning,” she says.
“I hope so,” he moans. “Love you.”

And he hangs up. Ravena drags the
tool bag across the bed and turns it
over. She fills a tiny green amulet
pouch with a pinch of dried fennel,
geranium, rosemary, and lavender
for healing. Then adds five beans
and two charms, a silver hand
and a crescent moon, both power-
ful repellents of the Evil Eye.
It worries her that some people
possess the ability to send the Evil
Eye to another without realizing it.
“Odell has been cranky for so long,
who knows how many people
he’s offended?” Ravena mutters,
closing the amulet pouch with
a red cord long enough for Odell
to wear it around his neck, hidden
beneath his dress shirt and vest
every day. She places the amulet
on the bed and casts a sacred
circle, waving her wand over it
three times in a clockwise direction,
seeking the healing magic of Isis.

“I call on the power of Isis,
Great Goddess of Restoration.
Heal Odell’s troubled mind.
End the root of this strife.
Hide him from the Evil Eye.
Under your wings I place him.
Please grant my supplication.”

She thanks the Goddess and opens the
circle. Energized from Odell’s call and
the power she summoned for this spell,
Ravena rolls over on the bedspread,
closes her eyes, and pulls light from the
table lamp into her body, using it to relax
her muscles, until she dissolves into
a river of star-shine, the three tarot
cards dancing upon a mystical horizon.

READ THE CONCLUSION TO "THE THREE TAROT CARDS" on Saturday, December 2, 2006.

Laura Stamps (www.kittyfeatherpress.blogspot.com) is an award-winning poet and novelist. Over seven hundred of her poems and short stories have appeared in magazines worldwide. Winner of the "Muses Prize Best Poet of the Year 2005" and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and six Pushcart Award nominations, she lives in South Carolina and is the author of more than 30 books and chapbooks of poetry and fiction.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"The Three Tarot Cards," Part One


By Laura Stamps

Spring arrives late in the Blue
Ridge this year. Only the second
week in May, and the soft fur
of buds and new leaves still
covers most of the trees at higher
elevations after an unusually
long, cold winter. At four o’clock
Ravena turns off the Parkway
and drives back to her hotel
along the country road that joins
each mountain town to the next.
Dark storm clouds gather in the
west, and she’s thankful to have
left the mountaintops before the
sky cracks, releasing its barrage
of fire-sticks and silver seeds.

When Ravena returns to the hotel
the thumping of steady rain pummels
her car, but by the time she walks
into her room the deluge stops.
Outside, water puddles pockmark
the courtyard, and a sparrow
jumps in one, fanning its wings,
splattering itself with water. Up
and down it hops and splashes,
until a robin twice its size charges
across the lawn, and the tiny bird
darts beneath a bush. The birds
in Ravena’s backyard bathe in rain
puddles as well, but none to such
a joyous tempo as this tiny sparrow.

Ravena steps out of her wet shoes
and pads across the room to the
bed, where she sits in the middle,
her legs folded neatly beneath
her, rummaging through the bag
of magical tools for her tarot deck.
She places it in the middle of a
cotton scarf illustrated with runes
and the image of Athena, Goddess
of Wisdom.





With her wand Ravena
casts a circle around the bed, calling
upon Athena’s guidance. Then she
closes her eyes, grounds her energy,
and says, “Dearest Athena, Great
Goddess of Wisdom, should I leave
Odell and my marriage?”

Ravena cuts the deck, shuffles three times
to symbolize the phases of the
Moon, divides the deck into three
piles moving left, stacks it again
in the same direction, and then
draws the top card. The Nine of
Swords reversed. A reversed card
always means “No,” this particular
one symbolizing a time of confusion.
“I don’t understand,” Ravena mutters.
“Dear Athena, show me another
card to clarify your answer.” She
props the Nine of Swords against
her magical tool bag, cuts the deck
again, shuffles, divides, stacks, and
draws The Star this time, a healing
card. “Now I’m really confused,”
she says. “Help me, Athena.”

Setting this card next to the first
one, she goes through her routine

one last time, drawing The World.
exclaims, thoroughly frustrated.
“None of this makes any sense to
me,” she sighs, staring at the three
cards as if they could speak, but
hearing no revelation from Athena.
“Not one word,” Ravena mumbles.
Slowly she gathers the cards and
packs them away in her bag, deciding
to try another reading tomorrow
before she leaves town for home.

READ PART TWO OF THIS THREE-PART STORY ON THURSDAY, November 30, 2006.

Laura Stamps (www.kittyfeatherpress.blogspot.com) is an award-winning poet and novelist. Over seven hundred of her poems and short stories have appeared in magazines worldwide. Winner of the "Muses Prize Best Poet of the Year 2005" and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and six Pushcart Award nominations, she lives in South Carolina and is the author of more than 30 books and chapbooks of poetry and fiction.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Butterfly Pavilion"

By Kika Dorsey

They flutter at the edge of my vision.
There are butterflies as small as a coin
and as big as a man's hand, of every
color one can imagine.
Some have owl eyes on the inside of their
wings to fool their predators.
My daughter reaches out to touch them.
I want to touch one, she says, but
a sign says that the oil on our skin can kill them.

I watch my daughter, my butterfly,
her delicate hands, her lush mouth
and I think of predators, how I wish
she had owl eyes painted on her wings
to scare them away, or a poison at the
touch of her flesh.
She points to a purple one and smiles.
Purple is her favorite color.

We leave the pavilion.
Another sign says to watch out
for hitchhiking butterflies
and I close the door quickly,
check my and my children's clothes.
I'm relieved to find none,
because I know what it¹s like to not
have a sanctuary, to be out in the cold
and feel oneself dying, wings molting one
into a different creature, one that breaks the hips
to give birth, one that carries the weight of babies.

My daughter is still a butterfly and all I can do
is keep her warm until the day she comes out
into the cold, her wings trembling like
the eyes of someone dreaming.


Writer Kika Dorsey, of Boulder, Colorado, has had her poetry published in numerous journals and books, including Anyone is Possible; Coffeehouse Poetry: An Anthology; Between the Lines; The Denver Quarterly and The California Quarterly. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of
Washington in Seattle and has taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Washington and the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Alchemy for Happiness"

By Diana Raab

Kisses on the inner thigh
the center of a chocolate soufflé
fluffy Maltese puppies
chilled Crystal champagne
Beatles concert in the park
lobster tails dipped in butter
bright purple Orchids
fresh snow on Christmas morning
roasting marshmallows
half-melted peanut butter cups
mysterious love letters
lying nude under the Hawaiian sun
writing in Parisian cafés
chestnuts roasting in the oven
wrinkle-free and svelte
multi-colored gel pens
Aunt Lilly’s chicken paprika
reading Anais Nin’s journals
unbreakable finger nails
French kissing under the full moon
a mink coat on a cold day
journaling in Big Sur
private jet to Fiji
bagels and cream cheese
scoop of coffee ice cream
vinaigrette-basted artichokes
hot chocolate at the skating rink
a month at Yaddo or Esalen
convertible drive on Route 1
freshly-caught salmon
chocolate-filled croissants
chocolate chip cookies dipped in cold milk
front row at a Sting concert
fluffy down comforters
sunbathing on a Caribbean beach
crunchy French bread
runny cherry pies
bunion-free feet
24-hour bookstores
meditating in The Himalayas
bilingual in five languages
Aunt Silva’s gefilte fish
chardonnay on the terrace
bouquet of red roses
surfing in Hawaii
sipping double espressos
boxes of Good ‘n Plenty
a night with George Clooney.

Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.

Diana Raab is a writer in Santa Barbara, California. Her memoir, Regina’s Closet: A Granddaughter Discovers a Grandmother’s Journal, is due out in September 2007. She is working on two other memoirs.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"The Lost Girls"


By Robert Combs

two little girls
one fair
one dark
are running hand in hand
through a sunny house dressed
in red and white checkered dresses
with puffed sleeves
ribbons and bows
they run away from me
it's just a dream
but I am happy
when I wake I will feel no sadness
I have seen them again
I am comforted that somewhere
they still are

is it strange
to carry inside you a new life growing
to know it before it's born
to see at last
is it a boy or a girl
with perfect fingers and toes
to feel it nurse at your breast
to know this tiny life as well
as you know yourself

any father knows
you own it as you made it
you are the authority upon it
you are responsible for it

but they grow and you know them less
accidents and adventures
become their own as you lose track
still you know more about them than anyone
but little by little
the child dies
replaced by someone you thought you knew
gradually you are discarded
they argue with you
or ignore you or worse
they are kind to you
they who begged to follow
find imitation no more fun
they make few demands yet
you are grateful for those few

one day they will sit in my living room
strangers
an authority upon themselves
they'll show their husbands and children
my photo albums
and I will look too
and realize
the little girls in matching dresses
the fair one carrying her Cinderella
tin lunch box teaching
her puppy to come down the slide
is lost to me
just as the small one
with ebony pigtails
who played so often at my feet
is lost

but the world in which these two
wear bright red winter coats
and matching hats with fuzzy balls on top
exists so uncannily that
after I've seen the pictures
I believe in them
the bandage one has coming loose
in the photo of the other's birthday
the castles they are building at the beach
the puppies
report cards
boyfriends and tears
proms and boutonnieres
used cars and college
and loneliness
today I look at them
and all the old sure
knowledge bleeds back over me
and I put it down
I did know those children
I knew all about them
when did I lose them
how did I let them get away

I catch myself staring
at them when they visit now
try to find the children they
once
were

Writer Robert Combs is a single father living in Natchez, Mississippi. He has four daughters and four grandchildren.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Light Flight"

By Gabrielle Wilkon


he stays up all night over his blueprints and maps and plans out the exact course of action he will take in the approaching hours. the time unravels and brings sweat to his forehead. he works away in nervous anticipation of the rising sun, a sun that demands that his feet start out again down the road. he paints his life first, void of all intruding characters and imposing shadows. there are no fallen coins on his route. no black cats or unaccounted for newspapers can be found in his daily hours. every day has been scrutinized most diligently and seen through his eyes once before.

he works away until the first blinding light of the sun appears. once he's prepared, he takes his briefcase, his coat and his hat and opens the door. he passes through every street, block and park through preprogrammed steps. at the alley way crossing, he opens his briefcase and examines his plan once more. he repeats the directions and the rules in his mind. he nods to himself at the green light as he walks forward steadily. he is satisfied with the scrupulous calculations that foresaw the exact angle of the white passing car with the barking dog hanging out of the window just diagonally to him now. he is here, exactly at 12:47 p.m. and so are they. he is on track. he freezes and waits for the yellow car and the grey semi to pass. he stands motionless. he is almost ready to go, he lifts his left leg and takes 4 steps, and there, there she is.

the red haired girl winds the approaching corner. she swings her red purse around her hand and hums the familiar tune to herself. he listens to her footsteps coming closer, and the scent is almost about to engulf him. he is ten steps away from her now. the hair is almost visible from his downcast gaze. he waits for another four full steps and then, yes, he is hit. she smacks him with the cloud of sparkling dust and a lavender aroma. with this scent inside him now, he is able to take flight. he soars with the angel who leads him. breath leaves his body, shadows disappear, closed equations and his briefcase disintegrate on the ground. he is free. the child in him returns. he glides higher and ricochets off the clouds. he is forced to take a breath. he pants and tumbles to the ground. his feet pound the sidewalk, but his gait is quickly resumed, as he remembers the formula that will take him back to his crypt.

alternating spectrums

lights sparkle in distant galaxies
light flickers
and a galaxy forever changes

spectrums from red to green
and the speed of light is diminished
to a halt

one scream arises from multiple mouths
and now silence reigns in
an intersection where no one stops

mantled steel and deformity are shared
among the participants
passersby stare with mouths agape

the sound of guitars hides the whimpers
that fill the air
no one can hear the silence that surrounds them

a wave swims to the scene
and takes the whimpers
into the blue, cloudless sky

the light turns green again
but no one is left
strolling, through

Gabrielle Wilkon is a student at York University in Toronto, Canada. She is majoring in Health Sciences but writing a lot on the side.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Back Home Again"


By John Grey

Nothing's where I left it.
Even the inanimate stuff
got up and moved in my absence.
Baseball cards marched from the dresser to the attic.
Baby blue blankets slid into closets
and stayed there.
Pennants hide in boxes beneath comics
and girlie magazine.
So if the souvenirs, the pins, the report cards,
won't sit still,
what hope is there for the people.
Try finding a child anywhere in this house
these days.
Listen for footsteps scurrying upstairs... nothing.
And scratching in the cellar... mice maybe...
but nobody in shorts and t shirt,
their bare feet scuffing up the dust.
Could that wry smile be concealing a grin?
Is the upside of a face ever in its downside?
I stroll slowly through the rooms
knowing I won't find a trace of what I'm looking for.
And yet my heart feels sated, my mind becalmed.
Maybe disappointment is its own reward.

Poet John Grey lives in Providence, Rhode Island. His latest book is “What Else Is There” from Main Street Rag. He has been published recently in Agni, Hubbub, South Carolina Review and The Journal Of The American Medical Association.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Witch," An Excerpt

By Jennifer M. Wilson

If every step I took was fated, and every word I spoke written out long before my birth, then I can be held accountable for none of it. I would exist as naturally as the sky, and could be blamed for the events in my life only as the sky could be blamed for throwing down lightning.

Someone is sobbing.

The sound echoes in my head as I wake, cramped and cold on the floor of a dim prison chamber. My body is drenched in the wet mineral fog of morning. My throat is sore, and my joints ache. The air is thick with the smell of unwashed flesh, cold wet iron, and fear. The pale morning light forms a pattern of shadows where it seeps through the bars on a window. It is no longer raining outside, but water still leaks in over the sill and flows in rivulets down the wall. I can see steam rising from the ground outside as the sun climbs higher.

My senses slowly flicker back to life. My wrists burn from the shackles that tear at their wounds repeatedly whenever I move. After fifty-two years on this earth my body is unaccustomed to the abuses of prison. My arm is dead and so I rub the nail of my index finger against the flesh pad of my thumb until the touch penetrates through and the needles rise up to the surface. I focus on the life returning to my hand, slowly creeping in as the blood moves. I wonder if death is as vacant as that empty numbness. I wonder if my hand retained any memory of itself while it was asleep. These thoughts slither out of the remembrance that I am already scheduled to die.

The sobbing continues.

It is Abigail, a teenager who was brought in, as all of us were, on charges of witchcraft. She was imprisoned along with both of her parents. She is crying and begging God for forgiveness in prayers we can all overhear - though forgiveness for what, I am sure even she cannot imagine. She may have been doing it all night, tormenting those who can’t sleep because of the sound, tormenting the guard, whom I know feels some pity for her. Her translucent blond hair hangs in shimmering strands around her face. Her bodice, loosened in transport, was never fastened again properly and when she leans forward, she unknowingly exposes her own flesh.

Keys jingle from down the hall, and I hear a man clearing his throat. It is William the guard, come to check on his tenants. I have known him many years, just another unhappy man I served ale to in my tavern. He’s lonely, and he feels for Abigail, and I can see that he treasures the bits of comfort he can offer her as he leans over to wipe her cheek and feed her a sip of water.

As I watch them, she looks over his shoulder at me. In her eyes there is a cowering horror, as though I could summon beasts from beyond the grave to take her away if she should ever finally fall to sleep. She leans toward William’s dense body. She only knows what she has heard about me, and nothing more. But she believes in this, in everything that has brought her here. I feel as though I can see her so clearly and yet she cannot seem to see me at all. Her fear dirties her perception like mud on glass, allowing enough light through to reveal form but not detail.

Writer Jennifer M. Wilson holds a degree in Communications and Comparative Religion from Ithaca College, where she studied at both the New York and London campuses. "Witch" is her first novel. She currently resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she is raising twin toddlers and writing her second novel. You can read more of her writing at her website www.jennifermwilson.com. "Witch" can be purchased at www.authorhouse.com.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"The Storm"


By Mel Waldman

After the storm of evil, we lost our last iota of innocence.

It seems like yesterday, when the beauty of the earth, sea,
and heavens vanished, and even the vast, mysterious view
of azure skies and the turquoise ocean could not move us
anymore.

The war has severed our souls and now we can’t remember
the pristine hopes, the antediluvian dreams, the cup of absolute
faith we drank in our youth.

Dark visions consume and devour us, like a sleek peregrine falcon
gliding high over a burning city and suddenly swooping down on us
at 175 miles an hour, smashing and splitting our skulls, eating our flesh,
and spitting out our souls on fire, releasing them to the cannibalistic
universe.

We remember. We were covered in white dust and human debris, and we
wandered through the toxic streets in disbelief, wondering why we were still
alive.

We tasted war when we swallowed this storm of evil. And now we are
possessed, although we sometimes forget.

It seems like yesterday, for we always return to the beginning, forgetting
again and again what we learned so long ago, after we left the Garden,
perhaps believing it could never happen again.

Now, when we smell the storm of evil lingering in our nostrils, with
every toxic breath we take, we make believe it will suddenly vanish
or that it does not exist at all, even as the peregrine falcon sails down
with its long, pointed wings and eats our souls.

Even then, we look away and forget, finding peace in a sea of amnesia
and a vacant tomorrow.

Dr. Mel Waldman, of Brooklyn, New York, is a psychologist, poet, writer, artist, and singer/songwriter. His stories have appeared in numerous literary reviews and commercial magazines. A past winner of the literary Gradiva Award in Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in literature. He is currently working on a mystery novel inspired by Freud’s case studies. His mystery novel, Who Killed the Heartbreak Kid?, can be purchased at www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/, www.bn.com, or www.amazon.com.

NOTE: The image that accompanies this poem comes from a news service report on a monstrous swirling storm that is churning at Saturn's south pole. Reuters reports that this is the first time a truly hurricane-like storm has been detected on a planet other than Earth. It is difficult to imagine, but the storm that is raging on the giant, ringed planet is about 5,000 miles wide, measuring roughly two thirds the diameter of Earth, with winds howling clockwise at 350 mph.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"A Life"


By Alan Rowland

A thousand years ago
An actor rose to take a role,
And took his bows
To start the show.

The script was new to him,
Yet all his lines
Appeared before
A blank, white scrim,
Although the script appeared so dim.

His lines were somehow known -
This actor played his role
In so many other plays of old.

In miracle, he grew -
The play rolled merrily along,
And with a jolt
Began Act Two.

He stood far downstage left,
And spoke in brief soliloquy
Of life and love
And dreams, with no monotony -
His speech brought tears
To even me.

He paused, with gratitude,
And slipped applause
Inside his costume's tattered folds,
And thus began
Within Act Two's unfolding scrolls
A darker, cruel Act Three.

Act Three brought tragedy,
Or was it merely comedy?
For theater draws the thinnest line
In struggle for sublimity,
When greasepaint slips

In sweating heat,
And masks fall in
A piling heap;
Dreams awake,
Yet still asleep,
Stumbling for a voice to sing,
Recalling that
The play's the thing.

Artist and writer Alan Rowland worked for many years in New York City as an illustrator and art director until illness robbed him of the use of both hands. Five years ago he moved to the countryside in southern New Jersey, where he began to write poetry about health, illness, art and loss.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Blue Variables/Weather"

By Judy Staber

What quality? What mercy?
That rain was never gentle,
it was soaking, drenching, saturating,
like all the angels weeping.

And the thunderstorms,
when they came,
were under heavy pressure,
with lightning in blinding sheets or forked
like the tongue of God.

A partial eclipse of the soul
began at three and continued,
with low fronts and rare shafts of sunlight,
for years. Where were you, mother?

Drop a heavy mist over the past.
Shroud fog around memories that disturb.
For how many inches of partly cloudy
can cover the loss of a firstborn?
Of family-life once cherished?
And all that potential love?

The forecast? Unpredictable.
Partly sunny every day
with occasional low-hanging clouds
and luminous blue variables.

Writer Judy Staber lives in Columbia County, New York. Born into a theatrical family, she grew up at The Actors' Orphanage in England. She has written a memoir about her childhood and is currently working on a biography of her mother and father and their lives in the theater in England and America.