Tarot
Caroline M Mar

What is the significance of sixes? Swords, cups, wands: I’ve pulled my third six in as many days.

My father is the sixth child, near-center of an uneven family. Dead center of my dead Mamah’s love.

Word-play, puns, the I Ching: numbers have more than a meaning. 六 like 祿: the fortunate life.

Child seven died 36 years ago. Child five died last week. My father an increasing island, alone at the imagined center.

Swords mean thought, mean intellect. The six is a journey, transition, possibly hiding. Because I pulled it reversed, perhaps the attempt to make needed transitions. Think about the benefits of the change, however difficult.

Six cards are a new sense of harmony. My father would love this, arbiter of family order, patriarch who remains. Even the older sisters come to him for advice and peace making. It drives me nuts. Sometimes he overplays his hand.

Wands mean momentum, mean instinct. The six is a triumph, internal and external. I need to believe in my path, tap into my internal sense of self-approval. No apologies, says one reading. Beware of arrogance, says another.

Sixes are seen this way in part because they come after the fives, the cards of disruption. My father is seen this way because he was the first-born son. Six minus five equals one: a subtraction of female irrelevance.

Auntie Five was all disruption, an explosion of girl rage and trauma. If she’d been a boy: an annoyance, certainly, but not much worse than my father or Uncle Seven. Stories told and re-told about the cut hair of enemies, the cut sleeves of hanging laundry, the bruised legs of a boy brought to parade his humiliation on the family’s front stoop.

五like 唔. Eternal lack, the no of a female body.

There is no worse offense than to be the fifth daughter in four years. Post-partum mirror: female suffering passed down from palm to cheek. To be the last daughter before the first son, The Sun, all boldness and opening. The light of him blinding.

My mother sent the obituary yesterday: natural causes. Do any of us believe it?

Cups mean community, mean relationships. The six is nostalgia, family, acts of goodwill and kindness. An older child handing a younger child flowers. Flowers overrunning each cup. In my reading from the Babalao many years ago: you should always have fresh-cut flowers around you. The card reversed; I should forge my own path. I still harbor a fantasy of working in a flower shop.

I suspect that my aunts have a text thread going, speculation and gossip on their own sister’s death. She lived a hard life, all my father said when he told me. If I am to speculate and gossip, it was probably the drugs – either using again, or the wear and tear they’d put on her body.

The fifth card of the major Arcana is The Hierophant. I don’t know what that word means. The figure wears a headdress, holds a golden staff. The figure makes a hand gesture like one Guan Yin or Buddha might in a temple statue. Card all red and gold, and the headdress like the hat of Confucius, also done in gold. The flaps hanging down by the ears. Sure, I see the crosses, and the bald-shaved monks. I know the card had an older name: The Pope. Everything has an older name.

Last year, when my back pain reached the level of chronic, when I was sent for x-rays and was missing work to lie on the floor and cry, when I was going to a different type of healer each week, I was grateful? – no, relieved – that my NP never suggested medication. A friend was given muscle relaxants for his back; I bit my cautious tongue.

The seventh card of the major Arcana is The Chariot. Something about willpower, hard work, unifying different forces in your favor. Uncle Seven is a mystery, inaccessible. The greatest trauma of my father’s life.

Sevens are defiance, confusion, deception, or growth. They are inconsistent, no unifying meaning across the suits I can find.

七 the certainty. But to my ear, a death-number. The leaving.

The Hierophant is a leader, a representation of mentorship. The Hierophant represents both the best of structure and knowledge, and the risks of groupthink and conformity. Auntie Five was a teacher, like me. She gave me my first pair of red patent leather high heels. Once, she fell down the stairs high on muscle relaxants. She told me about it, laughing through her black eye, and also how great the drugs were. Because I was young, was cool, was a rebel. I remember feeling mostly fear: for her, for myself.

Motorcycles are sometimes called chariots. My father owns many, rides them. A motorcycle is what killed his brother, his best friend. I was six months old when he died. My father was thirty, my uncle twenty-nine. My father still owns this motorcycle.

Once, high on cocaine, I said, I think I’d make a great drug addict. My friend of the also-bad back and I, a perfectly-matched high, talking too fast about how much we love each other. Mostly about how much he loved me, mostly me basking in the particular glow of high-femme/gay man adoration. The human propensity for tenderness, says one reading.

Seven of wands. He and my father were hardheads, running the streets in a rush of near-constant violence. Dealing drugs, and all the rest. When he was older, he raised pit bulls. Fed them live rabbits to keep them murderous.

六 into 樂: the happiness, in spite of.

Seven of cups. I don’t understand my parents’ own mortality. My aunt, sixty-seven, was so young, I tell my mother. I recognize that this is not a true fact. In our family, no one dies before ninety. My uncle’s death turned my Mamah to Jesus. Turned my father to the face I have always seen, but did not inherit. What was he like when I was newly born?

五 the five elements. No amount of balancing can save us.

七夕節. Ghost month, all our dead returning.

Seven of pentacles. This is not a revelation.

Seven of swords. In most photographs, he wears aviator shades. He looks so much like my father.

Caroline Mei-Lin Mar is a high school health educator and poet. A San Francisco local, Carrie is doing her best to keep her gentrifying hometown queer and creative. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, an alumna of VONA, and a member of Rabble Collective. She has been granted residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Ragdale, and is a member of the board of Friends of Writers. Her first collection of poetry, Special Education, is forthcoming from Texas Review Press.