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A Thousand Palms A Day
By Ricky Ray
At the ticket window, a man who could be an elderly woman,
her face so tired it falls asleep without her,
takes your palm instead of your money,
cuts it open with a knife that doesn't hurt,
and with a knowing twitch of her 'stache
reads the code in your blood, really a story in a story,
a furred creature running across the page
with letters for footprints, and hurry up, you think,
stick to his heels, the rain’s coming,
he's already a darkle on the horizon,
you'll miss the point of yourself
if you don't read what he said in his tread!
But she still has your hand
and when you try to pull it away
you fondle her inner organs
and she moans something in a language you can't repeat,
each moment erasing itself, you can't repeat,
and when you quit fidgeting so she can do her thankless job,
your hand comes out without any fingers attached!
She peels each finger like a piece of fruit,
rewraps it carefully as a newborn
and gives them back, one at a time;
you plug them in like thumb drives,
scars and arthritis and the muscle memory
of how to throw a dart intact.
She stops at the second pinky, her eyes move aside,
a strip of 8mm film runs through the sockets,
showing you snapshots of yourself in the womb--
the sun seems to be waiting for her signal
before it closes the day, waiting until you understand
each of the shapes in your fingerprints,
and when you do, you can tell she's a mother,
the mother in fact of everyone you ever knew,
smiling the smile of 1,000 palms a day for sixty years
with no days off, and it makes you want to wee yourself,
and she nods and says go ahead dearie, look down,
what else did you think the drain was for?
But just your wee, mind, don’t try to go with it.
Life isn't done with you yet.