At the violet hour, a tent’s unexpected
shelter from constables and rain. Past doorway, beaded
threshold, the lacqueria, the ivory familiars...

She sat, eyes askance from my Smith & Wesson, unsheathed,

as if that gypsy woman had been waiting for me,
a calendar square, red-circled, a covenant due.
On her table a wicked pack of cards – semblable,

soeur sinistre, clairvoyante extraordinaire – “Look!”

she said. “Your past exhumed: The Lovers, once entwined, torn
by avarice and Fortune’s Wheel.” The candle flickered,
like a lost soul burning. “This your present, Hierophant.

 Your torture runs for years. Seven Cups, this signifies

the evils you have tasted with your lips, too often.”
And of what was to come? – “The High Priestess, there she sits,
desirous of your soul, as yet unclaimed. And this is

the card penultimate, eyes bound with the gauze of pride –

Judgement.” I gaped. These cards, death-qualified jurymen
of a malignant trial where this my soul, my Jabez,
was all but forfeit. Her fingers stroked the final suit:

“And this is you.” My resolution startled, cried out,

but my choked voice could find no oratory fervor.
I raised my revolver as the sirens swirled outside.
The verdict thundered, and the bullet struck, a gavel –

On that card, emblazoned with my face – The Hanged Man.


  1. This poem was first published in Poets & Artists (Goss 183) as part of its Heroes & Villains special collaboration issue, in April 2013, with an accompanying artwork, “Tarot Walkabout with D.W. and Three-Fingers S.P.” by Josephine Lipuma. Thanks to Didi Menendez, publisher, for supplying the crucible within which this work was conceived.

    THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER: A Joint Artists’ Statement

    SP: Our collaboration – over email, Skype, social media - began with the tale of the “Devil and Daniel Webster”, but it quickly began to encompass other legends and symbols – seers and fortune tellers, figures on Tarot cards, the members of a jury, cinema, shadows and light.

    JL: From the beginning, I accessed my darker side, searching for a combination of lucid expression and sardonic humor. In the final piece, Daniel Webster gender bends, Nosferatu lurks, a guardian angel observes upside-down, decapitated heads pass judgement, while Three-Fingers Samuel P considers two significant Tarot cards - the High Priestess and the Hanged Man. Heroes, villains, who decides what is good or evil?

    SP: Those Tarot cards link the artwork and the poem intensely. The first-person narrator, Daniel, becomes a fugitive, judged by T.S. Eliot’s “wicked pack of cards”, held by the Devil transformed into the persona of a gypsy fortune teller – is this Josephine behind the mask?

    JL: The process transformed us into magical realist sojourners, musing from the inside out, deliberately employing both innovative and traditional practices – this filled me with a sense of accomplishment and integrity. The process proved a most malleable medium for translating the inner visions to the outer display, pulling the light out of the heart and onto paper.

    SP: The poem played upon the art, and the art upon the poem – they form a piano piece for four hands, acted as one another’s echo chambers.

    JL: The final realization of the work was for me a freedom to find, in creative accidents, elegance and grace.

  2. Which is more fascinating, the poem or the story/dialogue which follows? For me it's a toss up, but I do love the poem and its dramatic story combining cards and a gentleman's way out! There is, of course, alternative readings of the cards you had the characters pull, but like all fortune telling, the prophecy creates rather than predicts the action. Brilliant.

    1. PS: "The Devil and Daniel Webster" is an absolute favorite of mine, a story I once turned into a play-script, now lost in time.

  3. This is excellent Samuel. The cards tease and like roulette whirl and cast the fateful card.
    Thanks so much for your visit to Poet's United to read my interview - always great to see your smiling face

  4. Sam, you always amaze me, for your intellect appears boundary-less, and your poetic spirit inexorable. You constantly are an inspiration for so many of us. It is great just to know that you are an integral part of the poetry gang dVerse, that many of we hangers-on cling to. Good on you, sir.

  5. The tension mounts after the hint of hiding from constables. Is she on your side? We don't know until the end when the deed is done.
    Or is it?
    Conveys the fear these cards can hold for those susceptible.

  6. I really loved how the history unfolds with the dealing of tarot cards. Extra fun for me, as we have worked our way through the whole deck writing haiku on each and every one of them...

    The story about the poem is almost as exciting.. I'm a big fan of collaborative poetry... fascinating.

  7. Marvelous poem, Sam. The opening is so evocative, and, my, how you play that hand.

    I appreciated your inclusion of the poem's genesis. Wonderful!

  8. The image of the fortune teller with tarot cards is intriguing. Fear and the element of the unknown is powerful in this piece.

  9. I find Tarot sinister, and the story of your poem chilling, which proves your skill as a writer!

  10. The violet hour--superb opening, and the revelation of self-knowledge as the cards are laid out is excellent. Great work!

  11. What a tale you tell--and your word choice is just outstanding---

  12. dang man...what a wicked write...and wonderful collaboration as well...have yet to take that trip in collaborating in poetry...have done it with short story, set just the right tension as the cards play out...and what a close...

  13. Don't know the Daniel Webster story; must find it.

    As a professional Tarot reader and teacher, I can only say this gypsy was a charlatan who quite misread the meanings. However, that is not at odds with your narrative, and might even enhance it.

    1. Well, I'd admit her interpretation of 7 of Cups.:)

  14. Love the mystery and intrigue in this piece. We are coming into a story unfolding, a revolver, a gypsy, a fortune being told. With each card drawn the tension builds, and though we never learn the subject's true transgression, in the closing we finally get a sense of the whole. Very interesting collaboration. A pleasure to read.

  15. Anonymous12:17:00 AM

    What an incredibly talented, intelligent piece full of eerie premonitions. This is fantastic! -Mike

  16. If fears could so loudly speak from cards...a bite for the gullible and the not so too, for who shuns the fear of unknown?

  17. A chilling tale and witnessed (or is it prompted?)by the gypsy woman. The tarot cards may have been a sinister element that triggered off the shot. Very realistically rendered Sam! Great!


  18. This is an intense writing full of mystery in a hidden world.

  19. This is incredible, Samuel. I savored every word. I was especially chilled by this: "Your torture runs for years."

    I loved every word of this poem, but was immediately hooked and reeled at your opening: "At the violet hour ... as if that gypsy woman had been waiting for me"


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