Did You Cry?

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
~Li-Young Lee, “The Gift”

Your father enters the poem
early,
storying past
the metal splinter
in your palm.

I set your paternity
—and the poem—
aside,
to reach back for my mother
and try to remember

what kind of day it was
when I played by the barn
where, it is said,
my own father raised pigs
(I do not remember this).

And what kind of day it was
when I found the barn,
door open,
silent

and tried to pluck silver lines
from silver webs
long-left,
then tendered my hand
on noiseless silvered wood

until my palms
were rife with the evidence
of my trying,

and mother
spent the night
with a silver tweezer,
counting as she went…
ninety-eight
ninety-nine
one hundred—

a ritual for my
tears.

And now I wonder,
Li-Young—did you cry,
and who was in the story,
and how many times
have you counted it since,
to forget,
and to remember.

~L. L. Barkat, “Li-Young Lee’s Splinter” from  Love, Etc.

I did, without ever wanting to, remove my child’s splinter, lance a boil, immobilize a broken arm, pull together sliced skin, clean many dirty wounds. It felt like I was always crossing the line between mommy and doctor.  But someone had to do it, and a four hour wait in the emergency room didn’t seem warranted.

My own child learned to cope with hurt made worse by someone they trusted to be comforter. I dealt with inflicting pain, temporary though it may be, to flesh that arose from my own flesh.  It hurt as much as if it were my own wound needing cleansing, not theirs.

Our wounds are His – He is constantly feeling our pain as He performs healing surgeries in our lives, not because He wants to but because He must, to save us from our own destruction.

Too often we yell and kick and protest in our distress, wanting it our way, not His way, making it all that much more difficult for both of us.

If only we can come to acknowledge His intervention is our salvage:
our tears to flow in relief, not anguish, we cling to His protection rather than pushing Him away, we kiss Him in gratitude as we are restored again and yet again.

2 thoughts on “Did You Cry?

  1. When I was a teenager and again later in my mid-twenties, I had major surgery. I was very apprehensive and even a little frightened of what was going to happen to me.. Dr. McDonald had brought my mother through childbirth of four of her six children so he was no stranger to the family. So, when I had my first visit with him I liked and trusted him implicitly I stopped being scared. On my way to surgery a few days later, after an OR nurse had given me a mild sedative that would calm me. Just outside the OR I felt someone take my hand as he gave me a gentle squeeze. I looked up and saw that it was my doctor. I immediately felt safe, knowing that his silent assurance that he would take good care of me and that I would be ok.

    In the post-op room later that evening, I was still a little drowsy but could see my doctor at the side of my hospital bed, still wearing his OR greens and a mask dangling from the side of his face. I looked up at him and said, “Thank you, Father, for taking away my pain.” His warm smile and gentle touch to the top of my head said it all.”

    Many years ago, after suffering through several instances of emotional pain, I had a dream about my first surgery and wondered, what could have caused me to call my doctor, “Father”? I no longer wonder. I know now, by Faith — the WHY
    and the WHO…
    The loving, compassionate FATHER through His SON Jesus always keeps his promise that He will never leave us!

    Liked by 1 person

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