Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Thousand Dollar Thumbs

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

This week?s unusual love poem by Robin Merrill of Madison features a pair of damaged thumbs. Though the poem looks back on a happy marriage, Robin writes that she gave it to her husband after just one date. ?That took more courage than I?ve felt since,? she says. ?But new love makes us crazy brave, right??

Thousand Dollar Thumbs by Robin Merrill

You cut the left one off with a table saw.
Good doctor sewed it back on. Called you lucky.
Next summer, the right one got gobbled up
by a bear trap. Took twenty stitches to repair it.
Driving home, your father coined the pair:
your thousand dollar thumbs. I didn?t know
these stories the first time I felt them,
left one bigger than it should be and crooked.
right one shrunken and hard as a knot,
scarred up like maps my fingers followed.
Ugly and perfect, your thumbs traced out my spine.
Callous caress so extraordinary, call me lucky.
Now our grandkids hang off them, unaware of their history.
Now morning?s clumsy thumbs fumble shirt buttons.
But I am here to help you. Call us both lucky.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2005 Robin Merrill. Reprinted from Laundry and Stories, Moon Pie Press, 2005, by permission of Robin Merrill. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.