A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Danny’s Leg

He came out of it all right.

Patterson operated, I’d heard,

     the way a dog digs a hole:

               furiously, without lifting his head,

     scattering epithets and instruments

     to either side.

“No finesse,” I’d heard a resident say,

     more awed than appalled.

“No finesse at all. But

     great technique, by God.”

He was quick, and he was thorough.

If you were pouring ether for him, they said,

     you had to be quick too,

or the operation would be over

     before your patient went under.

When the vomiting stopped and they

wheeled Danny from recovery

Patterson said, “Put him in my ward.

     This man’s been a guinea pig long enough.”

“You’re lucky you’re a soldier,” Rose told him.

     “at least you get penicillin.”

“Lucky I’m—oh yes. But if I weren’t,

     I wouldn’t need it.”

“Hard to say. Maybe you’d have gotten your hand

     stuck in the die-casting machinery, like

     my sister did. It was a military factory, but still—

she was a civilian. No penicillin.”

“Okay, Rose, okay. I’m lucky I got shot

in the leg, ’cause otherwise it might have been

the heart, and

lucky to lose my leg, so as

not to lose my life, and lucky above all

to have you here to tell me how fortunate I am

               in every way.”

“And don’t you forget it,” I told him.

“Sometimes,” Rose said across the bed,

     “I don’t think he appreciates me.”

Next day when I peeked in, Danny was

     shaking Patterson’s hand.

“I never thought I’d thank someone

     for taking off my leg, Doc, but—


“Any time,” Patterson patted his hand,

     “any time.”

But when Patterson had gone, I saw

Danny reach down with both hands, holding

what was left of his leg, and rocking,

rocking, in the bed, he wept,

“Oh, my leg, oh my leg.”

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