Cartomantically, A.R. Ammons

I’ve been enjoying The Really Short Poems of A. R. Ammons and a few of them made me think of various playing and tarot cards.

Here’s a cartomantic translation of one poem, first using playing cards:

I chose those cards on purpose because they seemed to translate the poem well. Two diamonds for two shining eyes, turning into two hears for life. The ten diamonds seemed brightest, and the sudden change to the Ace of Spades seemed to capture the idea of loss.

Here it is with tarot cards:

The Star made me think of tears and life, and the stars overhead are shining. The Hermit provides additional light. The Sun is also bright and Death was probably an obvious choice.

Then I drew four cards at random, which I thought could allow each deck to provide commentary on the poem.

First, playing cards:

“Eyes shined/for life”: Three of Spades and Ace of Clubs. These lines seem to be about how the effects of grief never end. Three spades reduce to one club–the three leaves on the club could be the spades combined. This suggests how the problem (grief) might lessen but never goes away. It might even transform (spades to clubs) but not into something entirely positive. The club suggests the start of something, maybe a project inspired by grief. A concise, fortune-teller-y line for these cards could be: bind the swords together to form a club.

“by a/bright loss.”: Five of Spades and Ten of Diamonds. These lines clarify that the previous two are about grief. They suggest the suddenness of death. The single club expands into five spades, greater than the situation at the start. This suggests the way grief can return in waves. In the end, they transform into the ten diamonds, which makes me think of how the memory of the brightness (before the loss) remains. Blow up the swords and watch them sparkle.

Then with tarot cards:

“Eyes shined/for life”: Hanged Man and Justice. These cards suggest the way grief can turn your life upside-down, and how you might seek justice for the lost life, or seek to regain your own balance and sense of what’s right and wrong. Hang around until you find your balance.

“by a/bright loss.”: Knight of Swords and Nine of Swords. These also bring to mind the concept of being inspired by grief to do something. The knight is off to fight (leaving or keeping nine swords behind), and headed off to the left, into the past, which could mean reconciling with bad memories of the person lost. The nine swords at the end here suggests that the bad feelings are near their end. If you go into battle, make sure you have backup.

Anyway, those are some quick readings. As I think about them, I’m sure a few other ideas will come to mind. I might revisit this page later.


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