David Galef: The Descent of Fortune-Telling

Tracing personal history
By the stars in their ghostly wheel,
Cleopatra’s astrologer
Sees what he can’t reveal

Po reads tea leaves to divine
The fate of General Kung-Pao,
The blossoming buds of oolong
Leaving a muddy red tao.

Almedes examines the entrails
Of a speckled brown bird
In order to discover that
The war will soon turn absurd.

Master Li’s eyes grow wide
As rivers when peering into
The milky crystal ball,
His glaucoma showing through.

The Reverend John Scollop
Opens the Bible to stare
At any random page
And then proceeds from there.

His wife, Elena, lays out
The Tarot in tier upon tier,
The fool and the high priestess
Uncomfortably near.

Madame Cornelia looks at
The palm with her limited range,
Tracing the stranger’s love line,
Predicting a bad exchange.

A bunch of bored housewives
Throw the I Ching and sloppily,
From a Xeroxed pamphlet,
Piece together a prophecy.