The setting was informal: a cafe. At the writer’s table, a girl
dominated the conversation. Instead of poetry, she asked for his palm.
A joke, he thought, to let her stroke his leather glove, something
he could write about later. (Meanwhile the sheaf of poems he clutched
fluttered like birds.) He took off his green shades
to see himself in her black heart, onyx ring, but spied
only this screwed-up gypsy kid who fancied wonders in upturned skin.
How she held on when she said, “No future for a man whose words cannot fly.
No applause for a man who nurses a stump for a hand.” He was red-eyed
and lost; this was not what he sought.
Then she said, “Your pain has crystallized like salt—not in your eyes,
but in your hands. Indelible, it is stamped deep into your skin.”
When she let go, he saw scars on her own terrible-ringed hands. Funny,
he had thought she was a fan when she asked for the chair. Like a great man,
he tipped his beret, bought her a drink and let her sit there.
Beth Walker has published poems from her series of fairy tale characters in Yellow Medicine Review and in New Millennium Writings.