REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): I'm fed up with the cute, stylized symbol of the heart that everyone uses to convey lovey-dovey messages on Valentine's Day and other Hallmark occasions. That ain't how the real seat of the soul looks; it's actually a gnarly mass of muscle with tubes coming out of it. The discrepancy is instructive, however: It pretty much sums up the crazy-making difference between popular soft-focus delusions about romance and the way love actually works in the clinches. I'm bringing this up, Aries, because the stars are telling me that you're ready to leave behind every last vestige of the saccharine heart, and graduate to the primal. Maybe you could buy an anatomy text from a used-book store, cut out a picture of the primal pumper, and send it to your consort.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): It may be impossible to avoid developing some new addiction in the coming days. I can almost guarantee that you will at least become obsessed with a pretty plaything you've merely been attracted to before. Since you're unlikely to find a way to escape this fate, try to arrange to get hooked on stuff that's good for you -- broccoli instead of heroin, for example, a master teacher instead of an abusive lover, strip poker rather than gambling on the stock market.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): In his book History of Torture, John Swain describes a subtle form of tribulation that seems almost benign compared with having bamboo splints shoved beneath the fingernails. In squassation the victim was fettered to a table and a thin, clingy cloth draped over his face. The torturer steadily dribbled water on the cloth, which slowly but relentlessly conducted moisture into the mouth and nostrils. Does this have more than a passing resemblance to what you've been enduring lately, Gemini? I bet it does. On the one hand it's not so bad; on the other it's about to drive you berserk. (P.S. You can and must escape.)

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Percentage of Cancerians who're in the midst of an experience having certain resemblances to falling in love: 67. Number of homes whose energy needs could be met for a month if there were a way to harness the animal magnetism now being radiated by the average Cancerian: 137. Rank of Cancerians, among all signs of the zodiac, in both reproductive and artistic fertility: 1. Percentage of Cancerians who'll be confused about the difference between frivolous diversions and healthy pleasures: 31. Distance covered by lining up, head to toe, all Cancerians who're entering their second childhoods: halfway to the moon.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): While on the whole I think your time in the Magic Theater will be well spent, you do have to be alert for deceivers and impostors. Also, the majority of the reflections you'll see in the Hall of Mirrors will be instructive, but a few will subtly distort your image in ways you can't afford to believe in. So enjoy your adventures in this alternative reality, Leo. Just keep in mind that a small proportion of the fantasies you encounter will not be in the service of beauty and truth.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Drink in some dreamy music on the
headphones while you channel-surf the TV and devour an emotion-churning novel. Wear a Star of David necklace and clutch a Tarot card while praying to Kwan Yin in front of a statue of Mary Magdalene. Pour equal parts cappuccino, whiskey, and infant formula into a tall glass and gulp it down between bites of organic carrots and a McDonald's fatburger. Boast to your friends that while everyone else seems to be suffering from a shrinking attention span, yours is expanding.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): I'm taking the week off from writing your horoscope to devote myself with more ferocious intensity to grubbing for money -- in an enlightened way, of course. You'll be relieved to know, though, that I've ransacked other sources and come up with two fortune cookie-style oracles that are completely in sync with your current cosmic mandate (which is not unlike the good greed that's driving me). Your fortunes come courtesy of James Finn Garner's book Apocalypse Wow! 1) You are wealthier in friends than rich in goods, Libra, so maybe it's time to get some richer friends. 2) Wealth is headed in your direction; so watch out for runaway armored cars.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): A few years back, sculptor Rachel Whiteread was named best artist of the year during a show at London's Tate Gallery. The K. Foundation chose that same occasion, however, to bestow on her the sarcastic honor of being Britain's worst artist. I suspect something like this will happen to you in the next couple of weeks, Scorpio. Your efforts will be medicinal for some, upsetting to others; you'll be lauded and pilloried. But no matter what your influence, you'll be downright unforgettable -- and in some cases an object of obsession or a breeder of hypnotic trance.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): When I was shot in the butt in Durham, N.C., years ago, I was wearing the next best thing to bulletproof underwear. It was an evening in May. I'd just finished writing a 22-page poem. I folded up the text and jammed it in my back pocket, then headed downtown on foot. Halfway there, I was interrupted by a shotgun-wielding assailant. As the ER doctor ministered to me later, she pulled out the pellet-riddled pages of poetry and said, "These prevented a far more serious injury." And that's how poetry saved my ass, Sagittarius. I believe it could save yours, too, in the coming months, though not as literally. Here are some ass-saving poets to consult: Rumi, Neruda, Rilke, David Whyte, Mary Oliver, Gabriela Mistral. (Or write your own.)

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