Reading Palms by Susan J. Atkinson

Poem title: Reading Palms Poet name: Susan J. Atkinson Poem Begins: The birth mother I have not yet met visits in my middle-aged bones makes her presence known in the ache blooming along the base of my thumb. In the pink stretched flesh that throbs in time to the rain and burns around my joints, she reminds me she exists. These new sensations flare from fatigue and lead to an unexpected confrontation with auto immunity and genes. The place on the hand symbolizing health, love and affection slightly blue and bruised pulls on the lifeline. The mother who raised me once had her palm read at a fancy hotel on the South Coast of England during one of my father’s business trips. 1978 and unexpected snow tumbled in drifts making travel impossible. The men held meetings in smoky rooms complete with whiskey tumblers and bawdy jokes and chatter that crept well into the night. Meanwhile the women were entertained by a palmist who told stories between the lines. My mother never talked about her reading. My father hinted it had caused great upset The car ride home had been silent, all that had been told hung like snarls of fog. A thick nest of wasps wove layers of grey around my frozen mother, who afraid and allergic never spoke of what was said and we never pryed. But the past now rises, spreads towards my palm and when bent the wrong way my thumb snaps like a wishbone pulled in two directions leaving me wishing I’d asked my mother, not just what she had been told about the future but all she knew of the past. End of poem. Credits: Copyright © Susan J. Atkinson This poem is an Honourable Mention in The New Quarterly’s Annual Nick Blatchford Prize 2020. Susan J. Atkinson’s poems have won a number of awards, most recently first prize in the 2019 National Capital Writers Contest and Honourable Mention in the 2020 Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse. She has new work in Grain Magazine and The Queen’s Quarterly. Her first full-length collection, The Marta Poems was published by Silver Bow Publishing in 2020 and her chapbook The Birthday Party, The Mariachi Player and The Tourist was released earlier in 2021 by Catkin Press. Visit www.susanjatkinson.com