An Autumn Tarot Poem

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Before any serious snow arrives, here is another of my Tarot poems, something of an autumn poem, focusing on one of the cards that speaks to me the most, the introspective Hermit, Card #9 of the Major Arcana.

 

IX        THE HERMIT’S NIGHT

                                   by Helen Iacovino

swirling, the first snow reclaims land from cottagers
who watch the jagged “V” of migrating geese
as they follow their leader, instinctively wise.
the ground is damp & cold, the wind & stinging leaves
lash the lake.  bears prowl the high night meadows.
nothing is ours anymore: the waves are teeth of steel.

& on forbidding autumn nights
through swampy rushes, the hermit shines his way:
his hood peaks snugly on his head,
his lantern wavers in his hand,
an old old man he is, fearless of the elements.

the lantern, like a smooth & perfect stone
radiating spikes of light
is multiplied by darkness manifold:
across miles of marsh it flickers, strong.

& on such haunted autumn nights
when the fire jolts & sparks
& settling logs startle us from armchair sleep,
we may dare to steal a glance outside

& sometimes glimpse that moving cloak
gliding towards the forest’s dark,
& with a brief but mighty shudder may descry
the cloak as the tiger’s lightest stripe,
the lantern gleaming like the tiger’s eye

while to other windows the hermit’s steps remain
subliminal: rustling wind or unseen animal.

 

Published in Puerto Del Sol and also by North Wind Press

 

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A Poem From My Full Moon Series

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Over the past several months I have written some poems that form part of a full moon series, and I would like to share one with you.  This series has taken me in some new and exciting directions.  I read this poem around the campfire at Unicamp on Labour Day weekend.

 

Where You Haunt

(Written during the Harvest Moon)

 By Helen Iacovino

long ago you decided
it had to be worth the journey,
long ago having chosen
what lights to carry with you & where
& what would be the places you would haunt.

you knew where your footsteps should take you,
& you knew what powers to call to you,
& you knew what beings to consider your friends.

now all long the constellations
with a moon by turns hidden & revealed
in a sky of amiable passing clouds,
the world tonight is as it always was –
some creatures living, others dead,
among new trees & old,
among waxing & waning blossoms
as the world approaches
the season of the crone.

now you walk to receive the gifts of this world,
& you live in broad strokes, ever going
forward through forest & shadow
with unknown companions
but on chosen & familiar roads.

by moonlight or lamplight,
it really doesn’t matter,
in darkness the world becomes more real
& shadows define themselves
into their true meaning.

your job is to discern shadow,
to delve into what’s not said,
to ride a wind that’s not there
& to imagine worlds into being.
your job, determined long ago,
is etched into the places that you haunt,
mirrored in your footsteps, outlined
with your breath on the night wind.

you walk, & the gifts come upon you,
you turn towards the darkening sky
& welcome the autumn winds closing in,
welcome the chariots of night.

darkness reveals a certain depth,
& the quiet grows deeper
& looks towards the longest nights,
where you know what the questions are
& how to find the searchlights
& gather the animal helpers
& call to the unbidden wind.

journeys ever beginning, never ending,
never an answer, always going deeper,
but that is the world you chose for yourself,
long ago, as a way to grow old,
ever asking the questions,
never settling on unsettled ground,
nor settling on solid ground,
knowing solid does not exist in this world,

when long ago you decided
it had to be worth the journey.

© Helen Iacovino

 

Happy Canada Day 150+

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Happy Canada Day 150+!  On the occasion of this anniversary, I would like to share my Canada Day poem.  I wrote it while driving back to Toronto from Unicamp one Canada Day, descending from the northern highlands towards the city.  There was evidence of celebrations in parks and towns along the way.  Coming into Caledon at the high points of the road, as well as driving across the north part of the city, there were clusters of fireworks all around in the distance, and the whole city, the whole countryside seemed to be celebrating.

FIREWORKS     

(written on Canada Day)

By Helen Iacovino

the land spreads & holds us,
carries us to hilltops
& leads us coursing
in steep valleys with its streams.

a celebration of beginnings,
of little pieces of our lives
intersecting with each other,
of contentments in the sunshine
underneath one spreading sky.

a land blooming in summer’s height –
travellers, we cover
the easy distances, we come down
from the evening coolness of northern hills,
past porch flags, past field gatherings,
past the glue of back-door chatter,
towards the heat of the city
where sporadic bursts of fireworks
take their places across the sky.

we take our places
& embrace our true nature,
while these fireworks
show, protect & unfold in front of all,
& the face of the jewel that we all have become
now shines brighter
as sparks shower into darkened skies.

© Helen Iacovino

 

 

A Poem for the Lunar New Year

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It’s now already almost 2 weeks into the Year of the Fire Rooster/Phoenix, and we’re almost into the Snow Moon/lunar eclipse/comet.  Still thinking about the new beginnings that any new moon, and perhaps especially the one of the Lunar New Year, heralds for us, and the new moon as a time of incubation and introspection as well. Here is a Lunar New Year poem that I wrote a few years ago.

CHINESE NEW YEAR

by Helen Iacovino

from present & past lives,
from inner lives & second chances
the music drifts like snowfall
through a cat’s closed eyes & nine lives,
going into everything, going deep, exploring –
there’s something the cat sees or senses,
a crescendo building in the world –

now the time is ripe for waiting –
the new moon a sliver in the evening sky,
as from the west a new year approaches
carried on the moon’s back
where Coyote’s eyes shine through it –

there is something the cat
knows but will not tell us.

incubating, holding back,
the waiting boat
drifts on the river,
gathering its energies,
seeking the right currents,
for the sleeping cat at daybreak,
for Coyote’s signal to the world.

something stirs in the west, a river, a cloudbreak,
something settles, a door
closes while nobody sees it,
as the old leaves of last autumn
swirl in a final eddy
across the day’s fresh snow.

© Helen Iacovino

First published in Trust the Dawning Future, a poetry chapbook published by the Canadian Unitarian Council

 

 

Tarot Poems – #19 – The Sun

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Here is the other companion piece – The Sun.

XIX      THE SUN

by Helen Iacovino

I    The Sun
In the midst of the shining light we dance
           In the midst of the dancing light we shine

The light shines
& we dance.

Its warm droplets sway
us with their power;
its music is like birdsong
to a goggle-eyed fish.

Like fish we look up
at the glimmering sun–
through the garden’s leafy ceiling,
through its murky surface water.

The rays that reach us are
nectar on our skin,
& our bodies drink.

The light shines
into the garden’s centre,
into the clear blue pool

around which we see a ring
of 13 dancing bears.

II      The Dancing Bears
“Where should this music be?
                     …sure it waits upon
                                  some god o’th’island.” The Tempest I ii

As young cubs, we
knew well the songs of birds
& of the winds that swayed the poplars
& sometimes our paws would tap
to their varying rhythms.

But now this alien lute, like an airy stream,
chimes through the trees
& tinkles over rocks,
purer than the chirp
of a thousand birds in chorus,

& like the piper’s children, we feel
our furry ears tingling.
Our paws reach out; we find ourselves
reared on 2 legs for the first time,
teetering, wobbling, but following
that magnetic sound, the lute in the trees

which throws its notes
like a fine net over the forest–

& free within that net we dance,
with music as our only master.

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XIX       THE SUN II — LEAVING THE GARDEN

by Helen Iacovino

From its cave-cocoon the caterpillar
must be born into the land of sunflowers,
& feel the rays of a newer morning.

Pleased & pudgy, from the garden path
we watch the flowers
climbing up the high wall.
Their golden petals are turning.

Like elves we dance in the garden;
in our circle we make our circle,
hands joined, feet circular.
The dancers of mid-day awaken.

Biting a small hole in the cocoon,
the caterpillar crawls to the top of the wall.
The sun’s flat lands spread out beyond.

The sun warms the top of the wall;
the garden was shady & cool.
The radiant green grasses awaken.

In our ears echo
the songs of the bees outside,
the song of the serpent sunning.

Slowly our eyes lift up
to the soft glare beyond the wall
& feel the rays of a newer morning.

Feel the rays of a newer morning–
as golden petals are turning
the dancers of mid-day awaken.
The sun’s flat lands spread out beyond,
the radiant green grasses awaken
to the song of the serpent sunning–
feel the rays of a newer morning.

Tarot Poem – #18 – The Moon

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Here are two more Tarot poems that I wrote, in two posts, with images from the Barbara Walker deck which I love. The Moon and The Sun are companion pieces.

Another one is coming tomorrow – probably – once the New Year has turned over and it’s officially 2016 here…. Happy New Year!
XVIII
THE MOON — SEARCH THROUGH DARK WATERS

by Helen Iacovino

I am the lizard
           breaking the golden cage

I
Long enough I have crawled
through the mud of my pool–
now I surface slowly
through murky green layers
towards the flickering light that swims
in a dark sea of sky.

The moon ripples in the water,
enchanting the waves with light,
so bright on the bank’s grass,
so dim down here.
There plants grow straight & green,
here the slimy seaweed drapes
round me, so hard to shake off.

Mighty moon, I’ll reach you:
I think I am a creature
whose gills were designed for land.
I’ve glimpsed there’s more
than this endless wet,
& now I cannot sleep.

I wish I were a tadpole
who knows
his destiny.

II
Beside her wheel
Fortuna cries,
“Your aspirations
are born of lies,
you guess your nature
from the shape you see
in the carnival mirror
of the heaving sea.

“You will swim to a surface
that isn’t there,
try to reach a moon
suspended in air,
believe in illusions
of distant hills,
& try to walk on land
with fishes’ gills!”

 

Tarot Poem – # XI – Fortitude

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Another poem from my series about the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. #11 – Strength – Fortitude – the lion. She takes matters into her own hands and turns the wheel in her favour, so to speak. In most decks this card follows immediately after the Wheel of Fortune, and is a response to it.

The image is from the Barbara Walker Tarot deck, the deck which I use.
XI FORTITUDE

Hope springs from the teeth of a lion –
        & I am the pillar which supports the world.

I am the path
between the lion’s jaws.

Fortuna, I defeat you
without the empress’ sword,
the papess’ book,
the lovers’ imagined world
or the hermit’s wisdom.

This lion by the jaws I take
& I make believe it’s easy,
as I ride your wheel
without magic,
without weapons,
with only a clear head.

Eagerly I set sail
& watch coastlines disappear
as paper ribbons to shore tear
with a ship’s slow parting.

Like a moth emerging
from her cocoon,
I feel my wings
beginning to sprout.

I am the freshest goddess
the world has ever seen.