Emily Paige Wilson


Patchouli’s mossy morning breath
edges out of incense. The teller spreads

purple velvet across the table between us,
teases tea lights into flame with the crass

scent of a handful of matches. I am all
cups and swords, more Major Arcana

than she usually sees drawn by a single hand.
I was shown my first Tarot as a child.

On my grandmother’s coffee table, her deck sat
near stacks of photo albums. She’d point out how

The Wheel of Fortune’s gold zodiac disc
was so much like Prague’s astronomical

clock, the lion’s fiery mane on Strength
the same as the beast of Bohemia stamped

on the back of all Czech coins. We’d sift
through the cards before shifting to the

photos, lives lifted and cropped into
grayscale squares, pasted onto pages

in the name of preservation. Nine
children aligned in ceremonial dress;

all the girls in polka skirts, boys
in suspenders. A stern matriarch,

dark hair twisted into a sloppy top knot—
the jewel-encrusted headdress of The Empress.

Even with these visual cues, my grandma
could only remember fractions, certain branches

of the family tree. I have learned to read
the deck the same way I read my family

history: to leave space for the stories
once faces and dates have faded.

When the fortune teller reveals The Hermit,
lone figure cloaked against the cold,

it does not unnerve me when she predicts
a journey but can’t foresee the place or time.

I know that each image holds its own context
even without connective tissue to tether them


You already know this winter,
this weather: January is still

more jam and back porch than cold
burn and shovel crunch on ice.

You know the way honeysuckle sweats
scent; the shores of North Carolina

will still be crisp when you come back
but Europe will erode in your mind

once you leave. You can’t cling to home-
sickness like snow sticking to the streets.

What gratitude are you showing
the ghosts of your ancestors right now,

the Atlantic Ocean for always opening
both its arms to you?


Emily Paige Wilson is an MFA candidate and graduate teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her poetry, translations, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Asymptote, Green Mountains Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, PANK, and The Raleigh Review, among others. In addition to Kert Green and Brauer fellowships, she has received the 2012 Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Prize and was first-runner-up in the 2014 Indiana Review Poetry Prize. She rules her life like a fine skylark and tweets @Emmy_Golightly.