The Benedictine Hand

“Now class,” she said, “we must be careful when
we push the glass tube through the stopper, thus.”
She slid it halfway through the rubber hole.
It stuck. She rammed it harder, twisted. It snapped,
and, snapping, drove the ragged end of glass
into her palm. Blood dribbled on the desk.

“Now that’s what you are not supposed to do,”
she said. She held two frozen fingers up,
as if to bless us. “I’ve cut the median nerve.
This is what’s called the Benedictine Hand.
It’s paralyzed.” She flexed her thumb and last
two fingers. The blessing fingers stayed erect.
Then, pale, she wrapped her red hand in a wad
of towels, left the room—quick, angry steps.

We boys, although it wasn’t accurate,
thereafter called her Mrs. Claw, not telling
each other how we squirmed that day or how,
Dear Mrs. Claw, we won’t forget the bright
blood, Benedictine Hand, or with what steel
you held before us your new deformity,
named it, explained it, and blessed us with your error.

:: Andrew Hudgins, The Glass Hammer (Knopf, 1994)

1 comment:

  1. Not surprising that this poem came my way. As part of my spiritual quest as an aspiring yogi, I try to seek out a variety of books regarding compassion, personal sacrifice, exertion and equanimity. The Benedictine Handbook is now part of my research. I shared this with a friend, who was lead to a search about anatomy and this poem. Although Mrs. Claw's nerve was severed, somehow we are now connected.