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Medical Humanities


Geoffrey Rubin
Published June 7, 2020

Three pairs of hands


Similar in size

Singular in structure 

Identical in purpose


Across three ages

From my grandfather

    to my father

      to me


Different doctors

Share a name and anatomy

But with idiosyncrasy


Blue veins creep 

Down cool edges

Soft and gentle 

Skeletal interlocks


The thenar bulge

Melts with color change

From fresh flesh-pink 

To worn amber-brown 


Despite ringing 102 springs

Sam’s nails glisten

Not a ramshackle set 

They wind back the gears of memory—


A small Jersey village 

Country doc’s palm

Enwraps the rough 

Black medical leather


Knuckles rap 

Sinewy tendons enter 

For the good of a dying teacher


He hears a hurricane of bacteria

And an electric current of silence

As vivid as the arms of death 

On his wet gold timepiece


Which presses in present day

Into my father’s fingers

And is then encircled 

Around my wrist


Our hands

Right then left

Dive downward

Absorbed by sterile gloves


Without tremor or tremble

With delicate movements

We suture the skin together.

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