October 19, 2016

Queen of Cups Issue Twenty-Three (Tammy Robacker and Ace of Wands)

from The Algonquin Legends of New England, 1884

Welcome to Queen of Cups Issue Twenty-Three featuring Tammy Robacker and Ace of Wands. Fall is in full swing here, which means, in addition to the ubiquitous yellow, red and orange foliage everyone associates with New England, we have first frosts, apples thudding beneath trees, later sunrises, lovely early evening light, cooler in tone than it was even a couple weeks ago, a blend of barely blue and taupe infused with the peachy glow of maple leaves, the ground nearly too cold to walk barefoot on, and the morning sound of gunshot in the hills indicating turkey hunting season. I wish all the turkey would come shelter on my property; all the deer too. I saw a mother and tiny speckled fawn on the road a few days ago. I don't know if I've ever seen such a small fawn at this time of year, seems much too late. So, when the forecast called for two 75 degree days this week, I was happy for the mother and fawn, even though I'm ready for chillier weather myself. The whole thing got me wondering if deer are extending their mating/birthing season because of climate change. Temps were in the 60s last Christmas Eve, and there's been a general shift toward warmer, snow-free autumns, but, as Mark Twain said "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes". Warm autumns could give way to 2011's 'Snowtober', which spawned a Halloween blizzard dumping 30 inches of snow with temps in the 20s. And in 'wait a few minutes' style, that snow melted and the ground stayed bare for the rest of the winter, with an early, warm spring. The seasons and their hallmarks occupy a lot of my time, they're presences like the deer, bear, turkey. I couldn't imagine living without them. The smell of fallen leaves, overripe apples, and woodsmoke, with the air just cold enough to prickle the inside of the nose, is one I could imagine crying over if I smelled it after years of absence. Everyone has at least one of these visceral memories from a home place. It's why the idea of exile, displacement and diaspora are so heart wrenching. Place imprints itself the way a mother's voice, smell and touch do: motherland. And we wonder how wars are fueled and rekindled over centuries. Home would probably be on all of our lists of things worth fighting for. I highly recommend Howard Mansfield's Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter if this is a topic that interests you, like it does me. Happy Autumn to all in all the nooks you dwell in!

Tarot Card of the Week: Ace of Wands

Ace of Wands: A fitting follow-up card to The Hanged Man, reversed. The Ace of Wands speaks of creativity, excitement and personal power. Wands is the suit of individuality and fulfillment, Aces are beginnings, possibility, new projects, seeds planted. Overall, the Ace of Wands is about first action, feeling creative, passionate and powerfully motivated which leads to planning and movement. You may be consciously aware of an inspiration or new project taking form, or only semi-consciously aware that something is stirring. The Ace of Wands is truly the moment after The Hanged Man in reverse. Where that card was poised, ready to respond to the next idea, the next opportunity, Ace of Wands is that next idea, or opportunity. This is a card packed with potential and could be likened to the brainstorming, or generative phase of a project where everything is on the table, everything possible. As a result, this is an optimistic card. In the image above, a hand materializes out of thin air to grasp the wand, a branch just breaking into leaf. The hand wields the power of rebirth, of beginnings, specifically the beginning of the cycle I mentioned in The Hanged Man, reversed. This is the moment of fecundity, abundance, the full well.

Ace of Wands For Writers and Artists: The Ace of Wands symbolizes my favorite phase of the creative cycle, my favorite part of being a creative person. The joy of generating ideas, connecting one idea to another, playing around with words, color, materials, movement, sound: this phase is true play. And if something is amiss here, you'll know it. If you're the kind of writer who edits and revises after writing one paragraph, who judges the wild ideas generated in this phase, who refuses to consider all the material being delivered from subconscious to conscious, who doesn't want to get messy, or entertain the chaos of the generative phase, then you're stopping the creative flow and, more importantly, not enjoying this major aspect of the artist's life to its fullest. I don't want to get preachy, but I've experienced the difference between an orderly generative phase and one that requires room clean-up afterwards. For writers, the mess of the creative process is all on paper or in the computer, which is part of the reason I began exploring visual art and craft, namely textiles and fiber art, about 12 years ago. The kinetic nature of visual art-making, the textures, colors, shapes, depths, the simple physical actions of cutting, sewing, moving back and forth from one work station to another, the fact that I can pick up and hold what I'm working on, that I can view it as a whole, have all helped me fall in love with the phase of art-making symbolized by the Ace of Wands. Engaging in this process while working on visual art and craft has allowed me to open up in the idea/inspiration phase of writing. The process is more subtle and internal with writing, but is fueled by curiosity and excitement in both media. It's important to live this phase to its fullest because the next phase contains an aspect of disillusionment, when all the rough drafts, mocks-ups, first attempts are  re-visioned. Sometimes it's right and desirable to create work in the generative phase that is left alone, some of your best work may be created here, other times cracks and flaws that compromise the whole become apparent, or promising fragments lead to nothing when the short-lived love-fest has passed. That's why it's so essential to engage fully, for your artist's soul and for your longevity as an artist, in this initial stage of excitement, inspiration and possibility. 

Introducing Tammy Robacker!

In the Room of Lost Causes
Seems there is always more
room for the doomed things.
Walls stacked high with old issues
of Vogue magazine. Boxed Louboutins
I never wore. The bad boys I loved,
who left me. Now they loiter forever
in the entry and blow smoke rings.
Their ghost hands still circle
my throat. In desire. Or, in anger.
It’s unclear. My fallen soufflés
of parents and siblings. Crêpes
Suzette stuck to the pan. I still can’t
get them right. My two creamy, white
voluminous thighs kick it there too.
Their gentle, rubbing truth chafes at me.
Sorry, my dear, we’re not going anywhere.

In the Armory
My father is here      He is dead      but still runs the place
My stealth clock-       worked orangutan    counting off rows     
of family guns and      ammo magazines    Boy he’s a pistol       
A real beast    manning the new corps       of soldier guards      
An army sergeant     in my morning lineup     Are you stract     
Are you ready to roll      He makes sure from here     I can get
to any weapon     His trigger hair    is the key        to popping
our trapdoor    I have swung this vault        wide open before
Made of thin air      Made of white rage    One wrong move    
He grabs a rifle       This doll ruffles     My poof party dress    
uniformed to go      full metal jacket         and trust me ya’ll    
when I whisper this    You won’t like him   when he’s pissed

In the Unlit World
Even God lost his eyes
in the ornate underworld

where I swim lapse
bereft of mercy. The in-
between place, where
I don’t fully forgive,
creatures swim evolved
as cavefish. Whisking around
wise and ultra-sensory,
but eyeless. There’s nothing
here to see. There’s nothing
here to see. Just an iced sea
menagerie of electric eels
fritzing and glass-splinter
thin anemones
beckoning. All of us,
luminescent as heaven
but predatory clearly.
Tammy Robacker won the 2015 Keystone Chapbook Prize for her manuscript, 'R'. Her second poetry book Villain Songs is forthcoming with ELJ Publications in 2016. Tammy published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes, in 2009 (Pearle Publications). Tammy's poetry has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Chiron Review, VoiceCatcher, Duende, So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. Currently enrolled in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy lives in Oregon with her fiance. www.tammyrobacker.com

Weekly Writing Prompt: Write a poem/essay/story that contains some essence of this season where you dwell right now. What are some seasonal hallmarks of this place; how is the middle of October different from the middle of September: the light, smells, climate, wildlife, human life, landscape? Changes take place everywhere in October, subtler in some places than others. If you're disconnected from the landscape you think of as home: in the desert when you're from the mountains, in the city when you're from the desert, in cow country when you're from a metropolis, allow that to figure in. Are your home-Octobers still in your genes, do you internally cycle with the seasons of your homeplace even after years away from it? A native Vermonter moving to the coast of Maine isn't taking a huge geographical leap, but the experience of autumn is certainly different. Tune in to the life around you at this seasonal moment and see what you come up with.

Next Week: Virginia Konchan