Literature Annotations


Crane, Hart
Episode of Hands


Genre Poem
KeywordsAnatomy, Patient Experience, Physical Examination, Society
Summary

The gashed hand of a factory worker is bandaged by the factory owner’s son. The worker is at first embarrassed, then compliant. As his fingers work, the owner’s son begins to notice the details of the other hand and to conjure images--"wings of butterflies" and "the marks of wild ponies’ play"--in the worker’s rough hand. Somehow this establishes a brief bond that transcends the class barrier between the two in an act of healing.

CommentaryCrane follows Whitman in his willingness to find beautiful images anywhere, even in this homoerotic exchange between two males of different social class. Few other literary works make these two points about the clinical encounter: that eroticism is potentially present in the physical contact between patient and caregiver; and that social class is also brought to the encounter where, like eroticism, it should ideally be transcended.
SourceThe Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane
PublisherLiveright
Edition1966
EditorsBrom Weber
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousOriginally Composed: 1920
Annotated by Terry, James S.
Date of Entry 05/17/94
Last Revised 08/17/06