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Poetry and Medicine
October 24/31, 2007

Dupytrens Contracture

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2007;298(16):1841. doi:10.1001/jama.298.16.1841

My right hand
is my father's hand
when he too at forty-nine awoke,
puzzled by the stinging
and the curl of his fingers
about a phantom hardball
caught barehanded,
perplexed by the smooth callous
where no tool had been held.
An itinerant bookkeeper,
my father tabulated the thousand
meager transactions
of farm, tavern, truck stop
as we watched his fingers
become fixed as if clutching
a small grotesque totem.
Constricting the very air,
contracting the remaining time,
reminding us of all
he had failed to grasp.
I splay my fingers
like a child anxious
for the teacher
to hurry, to trace
the outline of his hand
on a red piece of paper—
that someday will memorialize:
on this day, I was this big,
loved you this much—
before my contrary fourth finger bends,
pulled by the unseen
strand of pearls
pressing through my flesh.
My father's life
carved into my hand,
the horizon drawn closer,
cut by cut.

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