by Victoria Korth

I miss being able to touch strangers
without strict permission, ask them to cough,
turn over, take a deep breath,
press the liver’s rim with sensing fingers, feel
warmth above kidney and stiff rotator cuff
murmurings under a paper gown.
I rubbed this galloping as it turned the corner
just ahead of me, dawdled, then ran to catch up.
If I knew more about the body than its wearer
there were brushstrokes configuring the painter’s hand,
or an oboe run the master’s urgent abstraction, words
making shapes that generated sound: small hairs on my neck.
When I was a medical student I discovered who I was
through touch, was allowed this pleasure, privileged view
into the corners of skin bound together with cat gut,
leaks, spangles, mutual perplexity while holding
a patient by the shoulder so she did not move,
closing on her eye-ear, close enough to see
nicked intersections like the windy crossroads
above Lough Dan, tea colored pools making me smile,
your image, the body I never really touched.

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