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.


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