National Poetry Month: Day 15

Life Line

by Terry Tierney


One line is the life line,
that much I know. When I squeeze my palm
the stretched skin and calluses fold unevenly
like creases in an old snapshot.

A line of people waits outside Ideal Coffee
staring at screens, headphones fixed,
wrapping around the corner like knotted rope
stretched between poles and connected
from phone to phone the way electricity
traces a magnetic field around the curve
of earth. Charged ions pull north and south
like cars at rush hour, each with its own destination
seeming random but fixed in a pattern. Waves
from the San Lorenzo River push waves
from the ocean while the surf washes over sand,
drops pebbles and shells like lost messages,
carves new lines in the beach. The edge
recedes year by year, cliff road sliding,
steps of asphalt where cars once drove.

In the restaurant hangs a photograph,
black and white, muscle cars waiting in three lines
on Beach Street. Young people lean out
their windows, hair sculpted in perfect arcs,
surfboards on their roofs all pointing
the same direction. I shut my eyes and see
the film negative, sky dark in afternoon sunlight,
where cars flow out like kelp on an ebbing tide
and kids smile with black teeth and pale faces,
their life lines gray on darker hands like weathered planks
between the tar-stained pilings of the wharf.

I would join them, reverse my quantum spin,
let it pull me back through my headphones,
follow ions where they lead, back to the flash.
Then I might squeeze my hand and stretch
my weathered skin tighter, more subtle,
pale and soft like a child’s.


Terry’s collection of poetry, The Poet’s Garage, will be published by Unsolicited Press in May 2020. His poems and stories have recently appeared in The Mantle,Valparaiso Poetry Review, Front Porch Review, Jersey Devil Press, The Lake and other publications. His website is

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