Summer Arcana

Zoe Tuck



excerpts from Summer Arcana




Having survived much

I hold my mound of dirt


it is a bone

an easy breath            a risk free


I look towards the core

of the earth            say thank you

and mean it

I take walks with friends

What are your traditions?

I have a dagger for bullshit

but I mostly keep it holstered,

a key fit to turn in

no lock, a can of starshine

and the will to be kind.

I was a traveller on a

winter’s night

in frenzied love with the

dynamism of the possible

given life and supple

structure by the

time tree growing outside

my window            which

I have climbed like

a dendrologist from branch

to root                        hopping down with

a deep laugh that strips

me naked of clothes of

flesh of bones of everything

except the immaterial archive

of love and suffering or

light and shadow.

I wonder if you could

deliver a message for me,

goddess or the page

it’s a song for an unborn

child written in the language

of the void?

I wonder

will you carry it for me

wrapped as it must be

in the skin of my human

life as photographed

in two thousand and when

in the disguise of

my sports coat stiffly posed

before the accoutrements

of learning as if for my

human parents?









A diplomat travels the

sandy path            carriage:

erect            luggage:

import, matters of


an encompassing cherry robe

practical and imposing


the purposes do seem many

for one rider and one horse




the amber-gauntleted fist

of the muse will brain you

with her parquet-patterned





spring’s flowering roods strike

at me, as if I were the

Hetch Hetchy water table

Why they must strike me

and alert me to their

flowering rather than simply

flowering I do not know


over a bare grey ridge




hood ornament

is money the wheel

and my head is inclined

to look at my method

of conveyance

in my cruella coat

my mercury hat




I’m speaking of the

war of these particular

roses            the order of

my specific garter


will you carry my orb?

will you carry this rood?


squire no more!

page no more!


That is: I’m not going to work on maggie’s farm




More about us matches

than our magenta toques

but that is image enough

for now


Let us bump grails

Placetne, magistra?





I’m afraid that I

was too precocious when you

were my teacher and I

have forgotten things to

make myself ready but

you have moved on I have

aged out




obsessed with




head in the coulds

the clouds made of money

you see me

stiffen up and blanche

or blush but don’t look


as I walk this triangle

road into the void up my

own sleeves




I have to keep explaining

that I mean


spiritual queenship


a woman of great power

when I raise my sword

the sky goes mauve

its hilt, the roses from stanza V

my long hair

topsoil for the mountain

I am at this moment

only the sea




only to find out that

I’ve been called up as it

were to carry the rood

a rood

but at least its the

single stave of the

questor and not the

fasces of the emperor’s


(she tells herself)

the questor who,

finding a kind of

preliminary demon in the


finds she loves the


and the ‘demon lifestyle’

but what does she

make of her companion’s








“Why do/would you want to be a woman?”


Distill that into

what is a woman and

what is it to be one

you say you met one

walking down the Via

Negativa or did you

just pass her, a lone

wolf perhaps out to

bring down the church?

You actually crossed three

women on the same walk

or one woman if the

walk was very long

(it was brutal)


one who would not lose

her speech

one who has gone mum

under the terms of the


and one who, having broken

the curse, will not relinquish

her power and perhaps

will help the others to


“Of course” you say

who sees me in the Glade

“Who wouldn’t want

long locks

colorful frocks

raised cups

and a spell that

must be danced

barefoot with two friends?

“You know nothing of

lost battles”

but after this

long fall            how can I

begin but kneeling and

head bent            the posture

of the pupil a

well as the skyfallen

I am hoping for magic

all these expensive lessons but

the mountain ash just

blossoms without fanfare

Important for me to

remember the women along

the road

or woman (I’m still not sure)

especially since

many people seem to think of

me as a change


spitting out as much femininity

as there have been

bills inserted

as if modifier were



transitioned the whole


Yes I’m a hybrid—

Is that so surprising?

and, being cut into—

is that so violent?

I’m always getting sidetracked

by the witch in The

Bronze Ring who

provides the talisman

and recedes into the

background of the story

what was her angle?

I see a woman with

a sword            she’s wearing

horns and

above her

floats an orb containing

the souls of men

who’ve crossed her

A better question would be

What is a man?

and did I ever really


I feel ‘him’

as a blithe violence

I have known

what it is to be

safe but have

since forgotten


Zoe Tuck is author of Terror Matrix (Timeless, Infinite Light 2014). She is a poetry reader for HOLD: a journal.