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.
I hope writing this helped you unball beyond your fist.
Just a little, Bob.
I love the way you told the story in a very controlled way and I especially like the last part that gives it the strength of a myth.
Well, I just don’t know how to be a half-hearted fan. I have to go over-the-top. This is another masterpiece.
I like how at the end, the poem plays with the tension created when a hand therapist, for example, wants to get to know you and you don’t want to talk about yourself.
Another fan. So expertly controlled, doling out what the reader needs when he needs it. “I want to tell her who he was, / but that would be telling her who I was.” is just divine.
Bill’s line selection is also my “favorite”
I found your thoughts about obfuscation very poignant.
She’s right. This poem contains worlds.
I have a partiality for verse that becomes “storytell of the reveal.”
And this is one of the best.
Elevated to myth
This poem becomes itself
I agree, masterwork.
Thanks for sharing.
I agree with all the comments. I found this poem riveting. The title drew me in and the ending let me know I’d just finished a masterpiece of poetry. I felt everything, I saw the images you painted. You opened your soul and then covered your ass so the reader wouldn’t feel sorry for you for too long by ending with a tad bit of humor.
Thanks, Catherine! You are very kind. I like your theory about me covering my ass with humor. Who could I have learned that from?
Like opening a book. Enjoyed this poem and especially the turning to stone and basilisk metaphors.
And especially it never hurt except this once.
You won with this ending. Great job…