Today's poem is by Alberto Ríos

The Injured Thumb


He hurt his thumb as he was cleaning
The fireplace, its grate

Falling unexpectedly
From where he had stood it

Against the inside brick of the wall.
He felt nothing at first,

Then the stiffness and the growing
Red feeling, red, red, red.

A little skin was roughed up but not much—
There wasn't enough to show anyone,

Not enough for a dressing or a Band-Aid.
The moment instead lived inside his thumb

And could not, beyond its one word, speak itself
Very well. Pressing another finger against

The thumb—it made the pain
More, and pressing more made even more,

As if he had discovered a pain factory,
Or a mine full of red gold and bruise silver.

He said little to anyone about what had happened—
I hurt my thumb. It hurts.

Nobody stopped in their tracks.
He flexed it for them, but there was little to see.

The story and the moment and the pain,
They were all his.


All right, I confess. The thumb was mine.
I said nothing because, what was there to say?

I hurt myself. You hurt yourself. Everybody
Hurts. It's always in season, I know.

Still, I wanted to champion the small pain,
But who listens to the one hurt?

Quieted after shouting, I watched myself
Pour coffee to the rim of a cup, to the fill of a sigh.

I watched the steam of it rise,
The liftings off the surface of its small ocean,

That incipient hurricane of mild delight.
The wisps of curl coming off the coffee

Formed around my thumb as I lifted the cup.
My thumb hurt, still. I tried to drink the coffee

But couldn't. The thumb and the wisp, however,
They found each other. They did not let go

So easily. I put the coffee down
But the wisp followed. It disappeared

Around or into my thumb. That is,
I couldn't see it anymore. I thought at first

The throbbing was from having lifted the coffee,
But I could feel the wisp now,

Talking in a low voice to my thumb, inside it.
And I could feel my thumb answering back.


My thumb, that small pain I wouldn't listen to,
It left me for someone else.

To me, the moment was a half second
In which I felt, or did not feel, a numbness,

But that's all any of us needs. The thumb
And the wisp made a century of the half second.

The small nature of the event—the small
Nature of any event—will not be denied its large

Feeling, though it may seem only a moment to you.
As the thumb has taken pains to show me, however,

A moment is a moment and that moment is everything.
I, apparently, was not sympathetic enough.

Finding the century hidden inside every half-second,
My thumb took its chance, to give

And take comfort, the thumb and the wisp
Together right there in the bed of my own hand.

I myself had not listened to the thumb. I had
Shaken my head, had shouted

But for myself, not for the thumb,
Which had, after all, taken the brunt of things.

And now, what to do? I've apologized, but to no good.
My thumb, even weeks later, now, will not do

The things I ask, and is loud, rude to me, even,
Carrying on and in love still, just to spite me.

Copyright © 2007 Alberto Ríos All rights reserved
from Cimarron Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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