To My Hurting Left Hand

To My Hurting Left Hand

Why has arthritis, a disease of wear,
attacked you, when the right, your counterpart,
has done the work? Oh, yes—I guess in golf
you gripped the club the tighter, and at night,
to love myself to sleep, I bade you grip
my stiffened nether member while I dreamed
of copulation with an unsteadily
imagined lady, whose obliging charms
opened the path, perhaps, to drowsy calm.

By day, exerting confidence, you held
the jar whose stubborn lid resisted all
my fingers’ strength, and helped lift rocks and art books;
still, you’ve been the lazy brother while
the dexter one has shaken loads of hands
and lifted tons of food on fork and spoon
up to my mouth (it’s true, you’ve done the wiping
at the other end, by some deep-seated
instinctive manual-labor delegation,
but was this work or an unmentioned pleasure?)
and written miles of lines, including these.

I grant you that, by some anomaly
of chance design, the keyboard Remington
and its word-processing successors set
beneath our hands assigned a number of
the most-stroked letters—a, s, e, and w
to the left, and these to the lesser fingers:
many a typo has flowed forth, and a strain
felt in the digits; still, is that a cause
for breakdown now? Or can the cause be guilt—
your guilt, left hand, for being sinister?

Although you wear a golden wedding ring,
you never were uplifted in a vow
or held a torch or pulled a trigger or
pointed to a star or city on a hill.
So suffer, if you must, though part of me—
a Cain demanding, as less-favored child,
attention long withheld. In this short time
remaining to us, help me clap, and pray,
and hold fast. Pained, I still can’t do without you.

~ John Updike,
and Other Poems

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