Fortune-telling (Eileen Chong)

All night I dreamed of my home,
of the roads that are so long
and straight they die in the middle—

                                                             ‘Signs’, Larry Levis

When I was fifteen a fortune-teller examined
my palm and fell silent. My grandmother
murmured under her breath, in their language.
He turned my hand this way, then that—

I was not to marry young; tragedy lay ahead.
Did I listen? Wild as a weed that grows in a crack
in the pavement. The life line bifurcated, the heart
line split. No children, maybe two; a boy, certainly,

perhaps a girl, with dark hair. I never saw their faces.
When I was six a teacher taped my mouth shut because
my soul kept trying to sing at all the wrong times.
I soon learned what No meant, and I would learn it again

and again. At twenty-four, they cut out a lump from the side
of my neck; at thirty-seven, another, from under my arm.
My skin would tear away with each new dressing. A clean
wound heals. Scars like lidless eyes, helpless and watching.


Eileen Chong


Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet who was born in Singapore of Chinese descent. She is the author of eight books. Her work has shortlisted for several prizes, including the Anne Elder Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, and twice for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award. Find more from Eileen on her website