Infernal Affairs

Ju-Yeon Kim, THE IN-BETWEEN, 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable.

God’s Justice! who could ever paraphrase
the agonies and tortures that I saw?
And why did I feel guilty as I gazed?

Dante Alighieri, Inferno, translated by Ciaran Carson (2002)


I’M AT AN artists’ colony editing a book about fowl and infinity. Every night the chickens here get sung a lullaby written especially for them by a Pulitzer Prize winning composer. It’s an insipid little ditty but it works. It is sung seven nights a week by two to five highly accomplished artists of the almost always female persuasion. Right now I’m one of them.

Singing to chickens is like a parody of maternity, some obeisance or act of care—ovary to egg, breakfast to sundown—that I can’t even wrap my head around. There’s one woman here who wisely declares, “I can’t have any dependents” whenever we invite her to sing to the chickens with us. I’m not good with dependents either. But I met an artist named Ju-Yeon Kim on chicken duty.

She asked who I was, so I told her. That’s a fancy name, she said, grinning sadistically. Thanks I said. It suits you she said. I was sixty percent sure I had been insulted. I was pleased.

The other night Ju-Yeon showed us some slides. There was a set of sixty-four tiles she made in Sheboygan, depicting human beings performing characteristically human acts, a kind of deadpan socialist realism of the soul. There were big confident paintings of dazzling virtuosity. “These seem to have been influenced by the various traditions in Asian art,” noted an audience member. “Yeah,” said Ju-Yeon, “I used to make abstract expressionist paintings but they kept asking me why they didn’t look more Asian, so then I made them more Asian.” There was a cave in Provence studded with paper flowers and dried flowers dipped in plaster, like the bebarnacled hull of an undersea god. There was a mediation room made of finely-embroidered cloth depicting human figures in various states of torment. We were all agog.

“I base my work on Dante and The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” Ju-Yeon said.

The most ambitious piece of Ju-Yeon’s that I’ve seen is called THE IN-BETWEEN. It’s a room depicting the six Bardos described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. One of the things I love about THE IN-BETWEEN is it masquerades as a sleek, even Scandinavian design piece on the outside, concealing within it a grey high relief of souls and bodies in torment. These days we like to conceal our torment. Which is to say we try. I love that THE IN-BETWEEN’s a room, because stanza means room, and a room for a feeling, room for the truth, is always what a poet’s trying to make. It is always some awkward transition, some contortion that demands a kind of shrine, even just some extra space around it. Now that Hell is a retrograde idea we’re disinclined to believe in, its even more vitalizing to confront it, since we’ve obviously gotten good, as a species, to making hells on Earth. Anyway.


Both the Gita and Bessie Smith agree: Do your duty. Another’s duty will make you insane.David Rattray

A few celestial events to note:

October 5: The Charm Offensive

Full moon in Aries (2:40 PM EST), Venus conjunct Mars in Virgo trine Pluto in Capricorn

This month’s full moon is in the dazzling and martial sign of fire, but masculine Mars and feminine Venus conjunct in the moon’s bright light, in the sign of the physical body & holy service to the collective, while locked in a strong beam from Pluto in Capricorn, spells a new way of leading with love. It’s almost like the ragiest neediest part of you getting to see your grandparents, if they hated each other, tangoing cheek-to-cheek to Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” in a luxury nursing home on… Mars. I always tell my clients that what Aries represents, fundamentally, is the vertical movement of energy: the rush of blood to the head (whether from fury or embarrassment) & likewise the rush of blood to the head of the genital—Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the masculine sign par excellence, & not a reflective or contemplative energy. It is not the boner you read a book about and then organized yourself into having.

Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” on MTV Unplugged, 1993.

Also? This full moon happens while the sun is in lovely, fair-minded, and seductive Libra, adding even more queer balance and oomph to the entire vibe (moon: feminine / Aries: masculine; sun: masculine / Libra: feminine)

The spark in us that drives us to live, to hunger and search, to be identical with our desire will be conjugated Thursday into a divine diagram of alchemical androgyny, the actual possibility of harmonizing the feminine and masculine energies within ourselves and in the erotics of our relationships, in such a way that we can actually deploy this balance to get what we want and need as earthlings, as citizens, as lovers, as negotiators. This is a queer and a beautiful gift.

Chaucer, in the foundational works of literature in the English language, set the world up, the whole battle of humankind, as a war between love and war, i.e. a war between Mars and Venus. What could a more balanced approach to attack and victory look like? One example comes to mind.

Taking a knee.

Dignified, elegant, powerful, and catching, this gesture, first made by Colin Kaepernick, long may he live, has seduced the hearts of legion while simultaneously drawing a powerful boundary between the conscience of NFL players and their industry and country’s official okayness with state murder and destruction of black and brown people. Not to mention the structurally fucked things about the industry of the game, the rapey militarism it has come to represent in our lives from the minute we enter middle school.

My point is, taking a knee is a great example of the charm offensive in action. It is Venus and Mars working in (rare) and perfect harmony: the dignified, succinct, beautiful expression of absolute boundaries and absolute respect. I’m not saying other modes of protest are invalid, I’m saying the charm offensive is underused in our day, and Venus-Mars in conjunction while the full moon is in Aries Thursday sends a very clear message to every single one of us: Ye who study the arts of war, bone up on the weapons of seduction. How can we better put this energy to work in our personal and social struggles?

October 10: Sexual Healing Year Zero

Jupiter enters Scorpio for a yearlong residency, ’til November 9 2018. Contrary to what I said last month, I think this is gonna be a fun one. Jupiter is the planet of good luck and the magnifying glass of the zodiac. His yearlong residency in the sign of the genitals, the anus, obsession, X-ray vision, dominance & submission, the things we really fear, & the things we really want, is a chance to bring some dignity and even fun to the desires and yearnings you’re ashamed of and the parts of yourself you’d rather not face. Jupiter also brings a dose of confidence and I-deserve-to-be-hereness to the tough stuff of advocating for yourself and your paper, telling the truth, breaking up when it’s time to break up, and weaponizing, when you must, the very deep and very private ways that you’ve been hurt.

Jupiter in Scorpio can mean more intimacy, deeper intimacy, freakier sex and more of it, and actually drawing in more good luck and material fortune (!) by getting and giving more and deeper pleasure. It brings trust and shining good humor to places where the abyssal drop and dank pull of gravity can be heavy.

This is a year for the world to explore consent and fantasize hard. It’s a year to worship unbridled mystery and also the major psychic abs required for self-control. And here I come to the tough part. Jupiter will also simply magnify Scorpionic themes of power, obsession, master-slave dialectics, vengefulness, and the delusion that the nuclear option is ever an option. (Pluto is still in Capricorn, y’all.) So while in my heart I believe the shamans and mountain spirits of Korea will protect us all from nuclear holocaust, we also have some singularly cretinous and cruel world leaders standing on our necks. Spending this year working on deepening our connections to ourselves and one another, and actually sexually healing, going to the root of the problem and going all the way—no tyrant or imperative can make us do this. We have to want it. Jupiter will help, and will make it as fun and as lucky a process as it can possibly be.

On October 23, the sun enters Scorpio & becomes conjunct with Jupiter on the 26, bringing extra oomph to the deep and actually-possibly-for-the-first-time-ever fun work of facing who we really are and sharing it honestly with one another. The truth can be scary and gross, which is why we tend to bury it in our genitals and butts and demote its planetary representatives to nonplanetary status (hello, Pluto?). Right now the heavens are giving some extra support to our need to face the things about ourselves we think (we know) are bad, and lending us the capacity to laugh at ourselves in the process. This is really important. Because, as a reminder, Pluto is in Capricorn until 2023. The process of complete and total nuclear meltdown of existing social structures (some of what is dissolving is good things that we need but a lot of what’s dissolving is evil, needs to end, and will not go without a fight). This is likewise the era of the x-ray of our leaders’ souls, writ large across the world: it’s all out there for all to see. Unfortunately, our buffoon leaders are also the x-ray of everything about ourselves that’s conniving, wrong, and fucked. So we have to learn how to be honest about ourselves, give love even though things are so confusing and wrong, and protect our tenderness while hardening our will.

October 31–November 2ish are the Days of the Dead, All Hallows’ Eve, Fet Gede, and the Santa Muerte festival. Lots of traditions say the boundary between the living and the dead is thinnest at this time. Embrace the spooky feeling, open yourself to wonder, make offerings & prayers to the people in your life who have passed on. People in your life include people you have never met. (I’ve made offerings & prayers to Jimi Hendrix, my grandmother, people killed in earthquakes & hurricanes & wars, people murdered by the police, and Harry Houdini. There are lots of dead people in our lives.)

Julee Cruise’s “Floating,” 1989.


Right now, there are five men who own more than most everyone else on the planet. The New Age (and age-old) adage that each of us reaps what she sows is a little bit complicated in the current regime—but what I can tell you without even looking up at the heavens is there is no way in heaven or hell the sowers of death won’t reap what they’ve dealt. The present structures are in the process of passing away. It’s already over. Marry your ideals now, and buckle up.

There are those of us having panic attacks from the news, there are those of us being murdered by the police, or, as this morning, by white terrorism. Those of us who are variously underwater, poisoned by toxic sludge, rendered homeless by structural evil & hurricanes, & those of us flipping out about it on the internet. There are the people who drive the drones and there are the people those drones bomb. There are those whose equanimity is inborn, like an animal’s; there are those who are simply insensitive while others are numbing out, a lot of us are on drugs, and some of us radiate balance and compassion thanks to our very expensive diets and exercise-and-meditation regimes. Whatever gets you through the night.

Nobody is excused from figuring out how to love other people, themselves, all creation, and god, not even now while it is visibly dissolving. Have you ever heard that thing about life here on earth being an illusion? Well now that there are so many illusions running amok, do you believe it? Why do you think you’re so attracted to astrology? I praise you for wanting to feel more connected to the cosmos and I praise you for seeking a larger meaning for the sometimes crazed and contradictory ways you feel and act.

The world is being emulsified, dissolved, and, to quote Shakespeare, translated into and out of total delusion a million times a second every day. Beauty is being churned into trash, the sap of the planet is being sucked out and turned into money, money is turning into the creams you put on your face. It’s weird to feel like an illusion, yet true.

Anyway, gentle reminder that nobody, not the Dalai Lama or Alice Notley or Oprah, fully knows what the soul or consciousness are. Where do we come from? Where are we going? Broken and hurt as we are, we’re made of the universe and we have our minds. Let’s be together in life and in death, in humility and reverence and awe forever. Amen.


Ariana Reines is a poet & playwright. She astrologizes at