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Poetry and Medicine
August 4, 2004

The Three-Fingered Cashier

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(5):538. doi:10.1001/jama.292.5.538

At seventeen she could have been a stock-clerk
knifing cardboard in the Drug-Rite back
room, shelving ointment and orthopedic girdles
after hours, before the first fist of dawn opens
the door, opens her secret as if her sex,
as if to the whole sniggery world.
But they put her out front, back to the window
where the sun strikes her hand with every
punch of the register, every flapping open a paper
sack to the pills and salves we think we need.
It is because of her flowering smile that our eyes,
too, bloom way above that gnarled root,
that twisted smirk of a hand, for which she must
have died and died again every day of junior high.
And for the rest of her life she can smile
for nothing, bless our coins with those
three busy fingers, and offer us a kind of cure.

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