A double treat for E.A. Poe fans:  two ways to read the tarot.  Into the Maelstrom concentrates on the divinatory meanings and Tell-Tale Heart is associated with the symbolism of Poe’s works. 

I have been reading tarot since the age of eight when my Gran drew sketches on pieces of wood and instructed me to think about my path as I matured and to add my own words and pictures.  She also taught me to read from a common deck of 52 playing cards.  By the time I was 15 I bought my first deck of tarot cards and realized my homemade deck and the store bought one were basically the same. 

I love cards, all types of cards, and have read them for myself and others for years.  But now I am retired and social-distanced, so I never read for others and sadly, I feel there is no reason to read for myself since I know the end of the story: no job, so not interested in whether I’ll receive a promotion or raise; no love interests; no real need for lots of money since I barely leave the house.  But something about this deck awakened me, reminded me, that tarot is so much more.  Tarot reminds us about the ethics—the joy—of living.  It reveals our thoughts and dreams.  Edgar Allan Poe’s stories were obviously a map of what to do, or not do, In life.  All the archetypes of humanity are present in both the deck and Poe’s tales, so the sacred marriage of cards and stories works well. 

I once answered that question about what I would want if stuck on a desert island with no chance of escape and I said, “My deck of tarot cards.”  Seems like I am on that island now and have not changed my mind.  This deck and book, in particular, will open up unexplored portals to the mind, whether you are a new reader or an aging one, like me. In the words of a masterful writer: perhaps “all  that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream…”   



If Poe reviewed Dracula would the castle still be haunted
would ravens circle overhead and black cats be unwanted
would Poe name Stoker’s unnamed brides with stories to be told
conjure their names from darkness and to devil be betrothed

Morella is a shade of deadly nightshade called Belladonna, it is old
Ligeia  she of raven’s hair that glints more than dust covered gold
sweet Lenore, the queenliest dead, whose funeral song be sung
three brides who are not brides to God, three who died so young

Alone with demons dreaming is a dead Count in an oblong box
time is measured in centuries and not by the mere mortals clock
Castle Dracula sleeps by day and at night its masques are red
conquering worm slithers amongst unhallowed soil of the dead

If Poe reviewed Dracula would the castle still be haunted
would ravens circle overhead and black cats be unwanted
would love of English graveyard poets be there for all to see
spirits of the dead they circle dark kingdoms by dead seas

A dream within a dream by day a sonnet to utter silence
below there lies a valley of unrest in shadow of the siren
a descent into the maelstrom of undead all untouched by time
red lips they beckon unwise men as they whisper ” Valentine.”

© 2016 Gary Smith

IMAGE: A Family Mausoleum (unidentified, Pinterest)



(part of a personal history for my granddaughter)


Many years ago

My DNA finally kicked in

I’ll tell you about it:

Separated, living in an

Affordable apartment complex

Unknown to me

A drug street

This was a time

When my aura was white

Encompassing me

After being scrubbed in the

Painted Desert and

Petrified Forest

Pure and still I was

Moved in, owning only

Card table and chairs

Cot and a Salvation Army

Chest of drawers

That I painted blue

Fridge from the years

Before the birth of my boys

Knock on the door

Five tall men—neighbors

All walked in, inhaling weed

One said,

“Damn! You poorer than we are!”

Missing my true wealth scattered through the rooms:

Jars of herbs and brass dishes of crystals

They nodded and left

But my aura affected them

They became my guardian angels

Worked two jobs: 9 to 5 at the university

Entering strings of T’s and other letters

Into a MAC for a cancer researcher

6 to 10 at a real estate

Typing long contracts using

An old Brother typewriter

Inevitably making a typo in the last few words

Had to redo so I did

On the Elevated each night

Then a bus

There were my five angels

Smoking weed on my steps

Nodding good night, they left


So Poe, what’s with the title of the poem

If it doesn’t include the tortured genius?

The apartments were 4 to a building

Lining both sides of a city street

One day everyone moved out

Except me


I mean, that’s not an expletive

Like the “Peanuts” characters say

Rats for real

They never came in my space, though

That white aura protecting me

My sons, living with me some days

Or several blocks away with their father on others

Squatted in an apartment above mine

One night, climbed the stairs

They were cross-legged on their sleeping bags

Surrounded by candles

Fourteen-year-old autistic son

Eleven-year-old younger one

Sweet voices, trying to growl and sound scary

Taking turns reading from my old book

Together, in unison:

“Quoth the raven, nevermore…”

My heart, a shooting star of pride

Watching from the shadows

The joy on their faces from century-old words

Making the best of their poorness

Perhaps not realizing the true horror

Surrounding them

As they reveled in the beauty

Blossoming from rampant imagination

Thanks, Poe, you kept us all sane…


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: with my sons, about 1991


THE HOUSE OF POE (reblog Poe-m for the poe-try man)


For years I would go

To the House of Poe

In the city of Philadelphia

Locked up and dark

Near a formidable park

With never a way to enter

After a domestic fight

I ran from the light

To the dark house locked so tight

Walked through the city

The home didn’t look pretty

Heard the croak of a raven’s voice

My heart told the tale

As a black cat did sail

By the back door that opened for me

I entered alone

The door closed, I moaned

Peering into the dark of the room

Is that a coffin

Guarded by a raven

On a catafalque of seraphim?

Surrounding candles waver

I wish I was braver

But I’m frozen to the floorboards

I can see into another room

A pendulum swishing doom

As a wraith breaks through the wall

When suddenly a quiet man

Scratching paper with a quill pen

Looks up and nods to me

“My dear, come here

Please, do not fear

How nice to have a visitor”

The floorboards creak

As I try not to squeak

And I see it is Poe himself!

“Would you like a sip

Of Amontillado, just a nip

Or do you wish to meet my women?”

I follow his pointing finger

See what must be a dead ringer

For each of his finest ladies

There is Ligeia and Lenore

Annabelle, Madeline and more

All dressed in crumbling grave cloth

I turn my back

On the women in white and black

And seek out the man I desire

Normalcy seems to be

The best choice for me

So I say, “You’re my favorite poet!”

“Alas,” he replies

“No one else is so wise

I am not appreciated at all”

“But you are at this time

It is 1999

And see, here is a book honoring you”

“How odd!” is his cry

Why did they wait for me to die

Before I am accepted?”

Says I, “Fortune and fame

An impossible game

To succeed, even when planned

That’s why I write

With no hope in sight

But maybe someday I’ll have won.”

“I come here at night

Although I know I’m a wight

To write the perfect poem

So I’m wasting my time

Leaving Virginia behind

But I am famous already?”

Poe stood up to go

I begged him, “NO!

Please stay for a moment at least

What is it like in the afterlife

You actually are with your wife?”

He looked at me and said,

“Life is not always what we wish

It is suffering and anguish

And we think that death brings relief

But the lessons never cease

Alive, dead or somewhat at peace

We struggle night and day

The terror that we feel

In the life we think is real

Is merely a living fantasy”

“So let me get this straight

Nothing changes in our fate

Alive or dead, our path remains?”

“Until we get it right

There will be no rewrite

We wander through horror and joy.”

“And what must we learn?

Help me to discern

So life can be easier for me”

“I cannot help you through that door

We each fight our own war

I will return nevermore…”

And he was gone

Poe and all his spawn

And I stood alone in the House of Poe

© 2014 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)