Teaching Rounds

May 04, 2009

His hand is a farmer’s hand, nails outlined with crescents of black earth, skin calloused, tough as a paw.

His hand is a farmer's hand,
nails outlined with crescents of black
earth, skin calloused, tough as a paw.
With one finger he traces the wound
we plowed from sternum to pubis,
flicks the sharp tips of snipped catgut.
We all know what was buried inside.
His movements remind me of an afternoon
on the bank of the Li River when
I stroked the gray bark of an ancient
banyan tree, the sound of water flowing
below me, the wind brushing a beat
in the bamboo leaves. When I come back
the patient is crying. Our Attending answers
a routine page, an excuse to leave.
In the corridor, he demands a confession:
Who peeled back his bandage?
Who let him look? "It was the wind"
I want to say, "And the river," but
I keep quiet, eyes on his scrubbed fingers.

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