After he broke my little finger,
snapping the bone to make me leg go
of my phone, it swelled by a third
& the ligament pulled tight, leaving
the finger curved inward like a claw.
The middle knuckle froze, useless
for typing, gloves out of the question.
No health insurance then so I didn’t
get it fixed. For years I kept my left hand
balled into a fist, hoping that no one
would notice the claw, the knuckle
turned to stone. When anyone did,
I’d tell a story about being jumped
by a stranger on a street one night.
No one questioned it. I even bragged
that I had put up a struggle & held
onto the phone, as if I’d been brave.

This week I tell the story again
to the therapist working on my finger,
stretching the ligament, prying the claw
open. The knuckle is still frozen
but she’s determined. She dips my hand
in hot paraffin, pulls off the glove
of wax & stretches my finger, presses
it down with heavy weights. It hurts,
almost as much as it did that night,
but she holds my hand as she does it,
the first time anyone has held it since
he did. I want to tell her that he wasn’t
a stranger, that it wasn’t on the street,
that he’d held my hand other times,
too, & it never really hurt except
that once. I want to tell her who he was,
but that would be telling her who I was.

Instead I ask if she’s ever heard of a basilisk,
an ancient monster that looks at its prey
& turns it into stone. A basilisk looked
at my hand, I tell her, & see what happened?
She says at least it was just a finger.