The fortune teller on Decatur St. tells me
that in an imagined 12×12 room, you are
plucking at some sort of instrument,
patient but frustrated that you can’t find
the right chord. I wonder if you’ve learned guitar
since I last saw you or possibly banjo,
or maybe the fortune teller is full of it
and just trying to make a quick buck.
She’s got tall candles with saints’ faces
surrounding a cloudy ball, her fingers hovering
like smoke around it. I ask if you look the same
as you did ten years ago and she says yes,
but with more lines in your face. No shit,
I think, disgruntled that I’ve wasted twenty bucks
on a woman dressed up like a gypsy
who will later laugh with her friends about
how she dupes tourists with all her props.
But then she says that you miss your father,
that you fear you’re growing into his skin.
She looks at my palm and stares into its creases,
proclaims that my love line stops abruptly,
that you and I were meant to know each other
all those years ago but that sometimes
that’s all it is. I figure there’s something divine
in all this, that one of the saints is jumping off
the face of her candle and channeling wisdom
from the ether. The fortune teller has sad eyes.
Behind her, St. Louis Cathedral rings
her head with light.

Claire Kiefer is a writer and educator living in the Bay Area. She received her MFA in Poetry from San Francisco State University in 2007 and works in the education program of a nonprofit oral history book series.

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