Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Back to the hospital again,
on the meals list, on the drip,
in for yet another stay
over an artificial knee
put in to replace a
born bone sideways wobbler.

Nurtured by mother cow
I have no idea how
a clunky knee can stop
your breath in pure pain,
unstring you as with a nerve-chop,
millions have jumped at prostheses:

a week, and they hip-hop
delightedly. Even you had six
weeks’ cure, before return of agony.
Since then will have cost us a year.
Just after you were born
Europe and her limestone cities

swirled with last-breath calcium
blasted into the air
yet you tell of chewing plaster
out of your nursery wall
and how at your
first refugee-child Christmas

you ignored the candled sweets
and gnawed the pine tree’s base
of calcareous brittle.
No wonder I became a teacher!
But after five children, I’m
Perhaps chalk just down so far.

I, butter boy, sipper of vinegar,
am amazed as ever how you,
dear pardoner, kindest wife,
always blame yourself
as now, beyond hospital staph
and the overworking knife.