The old woman clasps worn cards wearily to grizzled chin,
vertical lines set deep as piercing black eyes etched
into an apple doll face.
Sweeping swollen arthritic fingers over lined forehead,
drumming now, listening to the hollow sound
of bony digits echoing against her skull.
Tapping, tapping flat cards to thrust of jaw
ever so gently yet persistently knowing,
as she did,
the message contained within the deck’s images
cast long ago from a stranger’s mind onto paper.
Fear arises, wells up inside her throat,
recalling faces beyond memory
castigating, infiltrating, immolating,
angry as the fires of hell that she knew
more accurately than themselves
their own path unfolding.
What the men wanted and what they got,
whether from her pack or between her sheets,
seldom elicited gratitude;
rather envy and scorn surged
from the recesses of dull minds
expecting picture-book angels,
unready and unwilling to accept
the too-human answer to their prayers.