©2023 michael raven

Notes about this piece: This piece was written during a single session based on prompts from the “Wildwood Tarot” with a thirty minute writing limit, followed by a ten minute limit for revisions. As such, there are likely both logical and typographic errors within. The three cards selected at random were: 5 The Ancestor, 15 The Guardian, and Five of Stones (Endurance). I allowed myself three minutes prior to the timed writing session to brainstorm ideas. The story may or may not reflect the meanings of the cards drawn.

The air was thick with humidity as the air rolled across the plains, flashes of light followed by thunder announced the coming rain. He’d get wet and the flames he tended would be washed away when the rain fell; from where he sat, he could already see the mercurial sheets slashing down in the last rays of the setting sun and the flames would cease to be within seconds of the arrival. But he hesitated moving any deeper into the cave, where his fire would continue to thrive and he’d stay dry. Inside was doorway and its Guardian, and it scared him to be anywhere near either, with the scent of rotting flesh and the musk of underearth perfuming the interior space.

Continue reading “Chosen”

otter & cattail

©2023 michael raven

notification thunderstorms
from my phone and
i recall days at the lake
gliding around in the canoe
with the lily pads and
their bright yellow blossoms
cattails swaying in a
gentle wind, dragonflies
clinging effortlessly and
an otter swimming on
his back, nibbling
on fish for lunch
if i could go there today
i am afraid i might toss
my little storm out into the
deepest part of the lake
and forget to paddle home

The above was prompted by life and card XXXIX from the Woodland Wardens oracle deck, “The Otter and Cattail (peace)”.

deer & oat

©2023 michael raven

arms spread, an invitation
for spirits to intervene
damn me & my stubborn pride
weary, i turn to unknowing

my first guest has been
waiting at the overgrown wall
for years, patient, for my
unchaining of garden gates

we sit together with
the wild oats swaying in
the breath of the world
slumbering, basking in
                           morning sun

I have been enamored with the artwork and conceptual ideas of the “Woodland Wardens” oracle cards and finally bought a deck. Card XV, “The Deer and Oat (healing)” is the first card drawn from the deck and happens to be very relevant to my current mindset as I seek to find a new balance within; spiritually, emotionally, and health-wise.

XVII the star, reversed

©2023 michael raven

trials mirrored in the slow
flowing waters of the day
an ambling movement towards
nothing much at all
poison washing out
leaving the body drained

was this what was wanted?

scrubbing the drained vessel
with prairie sage to prepare
for reclamation
tomorrow will be a reckoning
wrapped in the cloak of rest
Photo by Fabio Partenheimer on

five of bows [wildwood]

©2023 michael raven

as cerne bends the bow
so do i, my focus
drawn taut before

i stab northward
flint & alder piercing
shadowed veils
writhing mists
a hunter stalking

The deck used for this tarot-based writing prompt is the nonstandard Wildwood deck, which may have different interpretations of the cards than those found in the more common Rider-Waite deck.

XI justice

©2023 michael raven

truth internal
a truce within
all shades grey
surrender to
shadow & sun
beheading medusa
with eyes in ice
& mirrors turned
stone, alone & 
waiting in the
last of winter cold

truth internal
carving cruel lies
whispered in
the nadir night
rejecting dagger
drawn spite
spilling lifeblood
on desert sands
that drink dry
poison from self-
inflicted wounds

here is the truth
borne like bone
in waiting for
grass to grow

five, the ancestor [wildwood]

©2023 michael raven

birch & newborn
trails leading to
wild places in
the melting snow

i let forest spirits
guide my blind body
down tangled paths
weary of pretending

i cannot hear the
word of ancestors
& their songs of
the wood

The Wildwood Tarot is a nonstandard tarot deck. I don’t take issue with their deviations, and the authors have some interesting interpretations of the cards, with serious thought given to more nature-based, non-patriarchal meanings — if I have any complaint, the cards definitions can get a little on the eco-preachy side at times, which can have the same effect as someone breaking the fourth wall. That preachiness is a bit of a distraction as a result.

Image description: antlered feminine figure standing within a cluster of birches in the snow; human hands hold a branch and a frame drum similar to a bodhran. Footprints in the snow approach the figure, backdrop are more birch leading up to a silhouette of a dense forest under a crescent moon.