chums & the eight of cups


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Q: What is the meaning of the Eight of Cups?

For me, the Eight of Cups is all about how we deal with problematic situations … and by “deal” I mean running away from it. It is a card full of disappointment and regret. This isn’t about being judgmental; the world is full of horrible, no-win situations that only get worse the longer we stay with them. It’s why we have the term, “Survivor’s Guilt,” which often accompanies PTSD. Free will can only take us so far. Or, as Goldsmith reminds us: “He who fights and runs away/ May live to fight another day;/ But he who is battle slain/ Can never rise to fight again.”

That might be true, but often it does not heal a spirit broken by shame and guilt. They say you never know how you’ll react during war until you’ve actually fought in one. I haven’t. I’ve been nearby but that’s not the same. A memory of my time in Peace Corps came back to me yesterday so I wrote this:

All through red suns at dusk. All through dark suns

at dawn. Those low rumbles. I’ve heard thunder.

I’ve heard earthquakes. Neither sound deafens

nor numbs me utterly like gun powder.

Once, while drunk (I was always drunk) some chums

and I drove to the outskirts of Artsakh,

to watch the fireworks.” Back when my eardrums

were still naïve over certain noise. Raw

and green. The border guards turned us away.

Being dumb we parked on a hill to eyeball

the «pff-boom» flashes down in the valley.

That’s called privilege: turning someone’s doomsday

into drinking games. Fireworks fell. Nightfall

fell. We drank … numbing their rage and fury.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for decades over an area of land called Artsakh (formerly known as Nagorno-Karabakh). While geographically it has been claimed by Azerbaijan its inhabitants are Armenian and since the fall of the USSR Artsakh has been a democratic republic, mainly unrecognized by the rest of the world. The First Nagorno-Karabakh War lasted from 1992–1994. I was living in Yerevan in 1997 while shelling and guerrilla warfare were still going on. It wasn’t the only military conflict happening in the area, though. That same summer I watch plumes of smoke billowing from the foothills around Mt. Ararat as Turkish troops battled Kurdish resistance fighters.



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It’s a beastly, sleepless night. The question that stirred me was, “What did the King of Wands say to the King of Swords upon meeting for the first time?”

At first I thought the answer should be a riddle … but I’m sorta crap when it comes to those sort of things. Instead, I turned to Syssk and her tarot deck. Besides English, the cards are translated into two other languages. On the left is Galactic Basic (Syssk’s native tongue) and, on the right, Armenian (the language, Lord Byron once declared, best to use when talking to God). The phrase in the middle, where these two cards come together, reads, “Ամեն ինչ քաոս է” (All is chaos) … for what else is there when wind and fire comingle?

Often, though, I don’t find the linear story telling path of English all that useful. So many ideas get lost between Point A and Point B. Memories crowd in on me and I have grown to abhor what my higher self considers worthy memento mori. Instead, I will answer this question with a sonnet, when the truth that needs to be spoken is less horizontal and smooth and more rough and deviating:

To flee from this sultry night heat I slept

outdoors. A slight breath filled the night. Restless

from stray dog days I heard how the frogs wept

for their dead, too, while moonlight cast monstrous

shapes; but all I could think of was the blow

when the Daimyo of Wands, “Lord of the Song

of the Turbulent Fire,” and the Daimyo

of Swords, “Lord of Raging Winds,” ran headlong

at each other. Blows that glowed into flame.

Misuse of power? Gall? The worst of those two

Lords rests in me. I know I should, “Come praise

Visions that bring Wisdom;” instead, stiff shame

rattles the bamboo. Love, I called for you ––

I called and curs squelched back through the malaise.



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Twilit sea. Twilit swamp. Twilit bedroom.

Uncanny times. Uncanny sex; since all

sex is uncanny. From womb to the tomb,

I’ll show you. Go down by the broken wall,

down by the ash tree’s roots: blood and mud, clay

and moss. I’ll show you your loss. Unwombed thing;

unborn ash and ember when the moon’s fae

is on you. Before your birth blood, stirring,

the way all chaos stirs, forced you into

physical form, you lived with me, dearest.

It’s why I’ve been abstaining for thirteen

years. You were my loam, my shadowy blue

soil. I was your roots, your muscled cock, lust.

Now you’re flesh and I’m an eldritch obscene.


While popularized by Lovecraft, the term, “eldritch,” means something strange or unnatural, especially in the way that it inspires fear … which, I suppose, means, “Eldritch Horror,” is a bit redundant.



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I learned to walk when the rolling sea ceased

to roll like the earth. I learned to sleep on

billows when you taught me about your creased

lips that tasted of lime. With your tampon

between my teeth I ached for that other

low tide. I didn’t blame the moon, that time,

when you pulled your swimsuit aside. “Lick her.”

I won’t blame it now. Let the sea’s stars climb

the sky, I will not drown while going down.

Without sea legs I drank my fill between

your hips. Rising. Falling. Groaning

of a ship’s hull about to buckle. Drown

with your tampon between my teeth. Sea-queen.

Argos-eyed. You are the vast Deep, moaning.

to: bureau of ocean energy management (boem)


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You have forsaken oil platforms dotting

the coast. Locals call them eyesores. I call

them a queer Muse. Sadly, they’re bewitching,

ghostly and waiting for the perfect squall

to rift under. Instead, let one live out

its long golden years as a shrine, an art

commune, a haven for all us devout,

seafaring witches. We’ll bring all our hearts

and Craft to this sanctum. Eh? No, listen:

it’s like H.D.’s Sea Garden –– we’ll transform

flotsam into lore. We’ll live without sin

or oil spills. We’ll turn other’s pollution

into the realm of maritime brainstorms

and myth-making. This is how myths begin.