Ross White | Poetry

Perhaps now that we all have screens
and video after sickening video illuminating them,
this trick wouldn’t delight—but when I was a child,
my grandfather would sever his thumb.

He’d tug it, wiggling, away from its nub,
a few inches before he’d ease it back
to the lonely base, and if, he said, I’d watch
him spit, the thumb would reattach, as if by magic.

The man was missing a third of his pinkie,
and after the war, had a derelict hip—
and yet, for his generation, who fought in Korea,
he remained remarkably intact.

He’d seen one Navy buddy
burned alive and watched two others shot,
yet somehow still felt such delight at the frailty
of the body, the ways we break apart.

And he would giggle at my giggling,
when as soon as he’d finished his flourish
and showed me the thumb waggling
unscathed, I’d beg him to sever it again.