The Simian Line – Joanne Clarkson

When a child is born, the midwife
pries open the clenched fists
to search with dread for the Simian
Line, a single slash across the palm,
unfortunate carnal sign. It is not

subtle, carves the hand in half.
It can mean reason strangled
or love subsumed, reduced
to barbed wire, as if in its past life
the child climbed from prison
branded forever with pain.

No one is born with unwritten
skin. Each shaken from a bone-bag
of ancestors, path pre-carved
but malleable, ambidextrous. Soon
the mind favors left or right. The non-
dominant hand a gallery of potential
while dominance records every element
of choice. Many palms hold a dozen

lines or more, while Simians
are lone, condemned to the depth
of a primitive road. I have known
these singletons to become scientists
and linguists, orators, actors –
beggars and drunks. And I have come

to the palms of the dying when all lines
bleed toward the center, coalesce
beyond logic and love, into a long
remembrance, fate neither animal
nor divine, simply individual.

Joanne ClarksonPort Townsend, WA, poet Joanne Clarkson’s 5th poetry collection, The Fates, won Bright Hill press’ annual contest and was published in 2017. Her poems have appeared in over 200 journals and anthologies internationally. See more at