In the Palm of Your Hand

Last night I had to dig a thorn out of the palm of my hand, a process that required a sharp needle and rubbing alcohol before I could “tweezer” it out.  I wondered how I could have gotten a thorn in the palm of my hand.  I’ve gotten thorns and slivers in my fingers when I’ve been gardening, but never in my palm.  After I’d pulled out the thorn, I examined the tender spot in the palm of my hand, and I thought about one of my favorite books for poets called, In the Palm of Your Hand: the Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit.  It’s one I work through periodically or just browse for information or inspiration. 

 I assume the title comes from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

 To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

There is something tender about the palm of one’s hand.  It has an intimacy and sensitivity that is missing from the tougher, more worldly and calloused fingers.  Palms are innocent; really, just there for holding a small item such as a button or pearl or a petal…not to judge but to shelter. 

Another reference to palms is from John Fowles, reviewing William Trevor’s book, The News from Ireland.  I read this in a book called The Poetry Home Repair Manual by 2004-06 Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. Fowles writes, “I remember years ago watching the commercial folktale-teller in a Cairo bazaar.  All writers ought to have observed this ancient practice of oral narrative – all critics likewise.  Getting the audience, I remarked, depended not at all on preaching and philosophizing but very much on baser tricks of the trade:  in short, on pleasing, wooing, luring the listeners into the palm of one’s hand.”

As innocents, palms may also be read, or, as Blake suggests, as an augury or divination:  a sign.  I can read my thorn and its removal as a sign that all will be well, in spite of a little pain.  Blake ends his poem like this:

Man was made for Joy and Woe;

And when this we rightly know

Thro’ the World we safely go.


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