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Divination 3: (For Poetry): Frida Kahlo and The Ghosts of Healing

By Bhanu Kapil

As poetry is technically dead, according to some of the other poets blogging this week, I considered speaking directly to the dead instead. Before continuing with this post, I’d like to say that I don’t take drugs. (Though my father, before he died, or knew he would, invited me to go on a pilgrimage with him to Badrinath, in the mountains of India. This is the road to Badrinath; I took it much later minus both my father, dead, and the opium he said we’d take once we arrived):

Now that I’ve established these facts, and not having intended to discuss these things at all (the dead and their forceful arrivals, a desire to speak), I just wanted to do something simple. Per: Julie Carr’s post on having an April Fool’s Day tarot reading from a friend. In that vein, I thought I would pull a card for poetry. The deck I am going to use (I’ll pull the card during this post) is Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe. Rachel is a mystical poet, award-winning writer of speculative fiction, and world-famous Tarot teacher:

I’m lucky enough to teach with her, part of the year, at Goddard College in Vermont. I’m going to read today from her limited edition art deck, which I keep in a silk-lined “potli” — a hand-crocheted pouchy thing that ties with a double-knit strand of cheap wool. The silk is from a scarf given to my sister by her former mother-in-law, a Delta airlines air hostess, who picked it up on a stopover in Istanbul. Right. More facts. Rachel’s deck is built/drawn from her travels to sacred sites all over the world, and is composed of glyphs, symbols, bird prints, pebbles in the shape of animals found on the beach in Greece, labyrinth forms, chalk carvings and the transcultural (and transgendered) figures of angels. This, for example, is her card for the Lovers:

Gorgeous! (Red Angel Dreaming.) Okay, and now I’ll pull a card for “poetry.” [Pause. Deck shuffling. A card is selected.]

This is so strange!

This is the card Rachel herself pulled from the deck when I last saw her and asked her to “charge” my deck, or bless it. It has an official name, but her own name for this card was “The Ghosts of Healing.” Here it is. Rachel’s poem, which accompanies the card’s image in the book that comes with the deck:

They emerge, they emerge
the dark hidden healers,
power from secrets.

What does it mean? I don’t know and at the same moment that my mind is wiped blank, I feel the truth of it in my body. I’ll try to hold it up and take a photo booth thumbnail on my Mac:

Okay, and that’s me. Hello! That’s the alcove where I write every day. There’s Frida Kahlo, a sort of witness. To the card. Can you see it? It’s kind of small, but if I hold it too close to the screen it bleaches out. What does this card bring? What does it want us to write? Why do we write poems? What is coming now, for the collective and for the individual? I am not sure if these are the correct questions. Perhaps someone else can: translate. Or ask a better question. That the card can then: reply to.

I just found a better image on a website in which Rachel interprets the card; it comes accompanied by another one, the Place of Birds:

Okay, ignore the Place of Birds (though I have the sudden image of Vanessa Place drinking a Diet Pepsi, straight from the can, in an aviary). Here is Rachel’s interpretation of the card:

“The Five of Stones is a variation on the Five of Pentacles. That card often shows sick people outside a church, with no door visible, as if their afflictions have cast them out from spiritual sanctuary. Here in the Five of Stones we see an image of deep spiritual healing. The ghostlike images (based on rock paintings) seem to rise out of the stone, or to come forward. Readings for spiritual wisdom can produce such deep healing, connecting soul to spirit. They ground us in a sacred reality that is both as genuine as stones and mysterious as ghosts. Through wisdom readings we confront spiritual ideas directly and can begin to see that such things may after all be real.”

Blimey.  I wish C.A. Conrad was on this group blog.  He’d sort this out in two seconds.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, April 5th, 2012 by Bhanu Kapil.