Five of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

5 of wandsFives represent conflict and change. They were some of the most difficult cards for me to illustrate. Nearing the end of my deck illustration project (only two more years to go!), I was left with all four Fives (Five of Sticks needed to be highly revised), four Kings, four Knights, the Seven of Coins, the Eight of Blades, Seven of Sticks, the Two of Sticks, the Three of Blades and Judgment, with the Eight of Cups requiring some major revision.


I took this to mean that I had some underlying conflict with men.


After I realized that Judgment was my own, not that of some great angel coming down from above to pull me from my coffin, I then knew, too, that any broken heart was of my own doing and if I was to remove the blades it was to be done with my own hand. I drew the images: Judgment, Three of Blades.


Meanwhile, a friend’s husband (a.k.a. a friend) gave me the assignment of writing a profile for a personals ad. Online-dating-service, I guess they call them. Ho, hum. So I did. It was kinda silly. I’m really introverted, and probably my profile came across as kinda introverted, but I met a few men and learned who Knights are, so I drew all my Knights and the Eight of Blades.


A year later, my partner moved in with me. I drew the Seven of Sticks, then the Two of Sticks. I revised the Five of Sticks. I drew the Five of Coins. I drew the Five of Blades. I fixed up the Eight of Cups in celebration of my partner’s divorce. I drew the Five of Cups. I drew the Seven of Coins. I was quite pregnant. I drew the Kings: Sticks, Blades, Coins, and the grand finale, King of Cups. Then I had a baby.


*   *   *


I learned the Five of Sticks as a foolish battle, thus I drew fools, battling in a precarious balance, wearing impractical footwear and jesters’ caps. The battle is foolish because every one talks at once. The people might even be in agreement, speaking only with slight subtleties of nuance, but no one would know because no one is listening. They are all to self-important. The argument fails to move along.


We must learn to listen to each other and to listen to our own selves. What are we really saying? We kneed to accept the inevitable differences and channel our energy in a manner that turns competition into cooperation. Change is inevitable. We can work together to try to find a change that is perhaps not exactly what we wanted, but something we can accept and maybe, someday, even learn to enjoy.

Five of Wands — La Corte dei Tarocchi

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Artist: Anna Maria D’OnofrioAnna Maria D’Onofrio


The father of a nineteen-forties dollhouse family
left long languishing in my mother’s attic asks,
“Is this all there is?”—


Is this all there is, these separate beds
with plastic quilts draped neatly down the sides
and pillows firmer than my head?


The children’s toys went from popular
to out of date to vintage to antique
as the twins stood, unable to kneel,
trapped in a childhood of white lace dresses and pressed pants.


Our other, an infant, tied to Nanny’s apron with a thread
has neither wet nor cried through all these years.
Mother never held the stiff thing in her slender, hollow arms.


The toilet in the bathroom never flushed—
tho I do recall the year my daughter sat there,
skirt hiked up for all to see
as we took turns sleeping in the bathtub.


The living room never saw a mess of toys or spilled tea.
The piano never sang a note. The hearth never roared and
the mantle clock has told the same time
going on three-quarters of a century.


For one brief flash of of time
I watched my wife in the kitchen
as she cranked the wringer on the washer almost daily
and swiveled the sink handle.


But the basin is dry. There is no drain.
The icebox, the oven, the cupboards all are sealed.
Here we sit, legs out straight for over thirty years,
chairs pushed back from the empty table.
I wonder upon what it is that others dine
and Nanny, always standing, holds the baby.


La Corte dei Tarocchi answers with the Five of Wands—


A punctuated equilibrium of dust
rejoices in the chaos of chubby hands
three times a century.


One day your house’s pressboard walls will crumble
into something-that-has-never-been.
Only in that moment will you know
these days of waiting came
not because you were put aside
but because you were loved.

Five of Wands — Bruegel Tarot

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Artist: Guido Zibordi Marchesi


Interpretation: “Ambition. Those who rise too high often fall (It’s easier for those who rise too much to fall).”


I learned fives as cards of conflict. While working on my own deck, I have illustrated the cards in mostly random order, depending on which card I am able to embody next. The first card I illustrated was the star, back near the end of the last millennium when I thought I was doing a majors only deck and knew nothing much about tarot. The fives are some of the last cards I have illustrated. The fact that I had such issues illustrating fives shows I have problems with conflict.


I am my own fiercest competitor, my harshest judge, the first one to notice when I have climbed too high and fallen. The battle of the five of wands weaves itself in and out my mind and my environs. It is a clownish battle. The one who cares most about the result is my self. None of this is fun. My conflict is not fun. I wanted to illustrate the fun cards first.


The cards in this deck are strewn with symbols that are truly occult, from the Latin word occultus: clandestine, hidden, secret. They are occult because the artist chose not to publish a book pointing out the meaning of all the hidden symbols in his work. Curses upon him! This leaves it up to us, the readers, to divine what his symbols mean.


Ultimately, symbols in a work of art take on the meaning that the we, the viewers, give them. If we are unable to relate to anything in an image (or a story or a poem or a life), we pass it by. If some one tells us, “Look at this— look at this—” we are more likely to stop and look and relate and say, “I see!”


Dare I ask— Am I the woman in the green dress: about to step on a rake and smack my head? Have I fallen off a mountain? Am I climbing a tree with a cudgel too large in pursuit of an animal that has already fled?


In the end, we are all peasants, common people wielding the tools of our trade in argument. If any of our weapons should break, we will be unable to work. What are we arguing about? Is anyone listening to anyone else? Are we even listening to our selves?