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Poetry and Medicine
April 10, 2002

Three-Point Gait

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(14):1775. doi:10.1001/jama.287.14.1775

Bad foot, the doctor's brochure instructs me
to say, as though I'm to scold
the foot for my own error—stepping
on a deck to piss and take in the stars,
slipping on ice as I turned to go inside.
Bad foot
I say, swinging the fractured ankle
forward in tandem with aluminum crutches,
knee-high fiberglass cast in the balance.
Good foot, I tell the right one, propelling
another step, and for a moment I become that genius
of bitter dependence, the nameless original cripple
who notices a broken tree limb
with a crook that fits under his arm.
Limbs of spruces on this coastal bluff, thrust
back and downward by prevailing winds,
arch upward, of necessity growing
to resemble the crooks of crutches,
and here in the rented cabin, rubber tips
suck and pop on the hardwood floor.
Spiral fracturedid you hear a crack?
said the doctor, pointing to the x-ray.
Like a staircase around the fibula.
Stairs, they're on the brochure's next page—
Good leads up, bad leads down
but for now I bear up on the level,
practice until the gait is smooth and even,
each thump a stitch in the bone's knitting,
and I try to imagine the final music of crutches
when, released, they clatter on the floor.

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