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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Fingers & Toes

“I think a lot of people can write poems that are howls of anguish. I think I've probably written such things and then torn them up.” – John Fuller

Born on Jan. 1, 1937, in England, Fuller started writing in his teens and had his first work published at age 16.  A poet, novelist, children’s writer, critic, and editor who has written or edited nearly 50 books, including 23 collections of poetry, he was initially mentored by renowned poet W.H. Auden. A Fellow in The Royal Society of Literature, Fuller said his work also was influenced by Eliot, Graves, and Stevens . . .  “a poetry of ideas.” For Saturday’s Poem – from Fuller’s Collected Poems here is,


An Exchange between the Fingers and the Toes



Cramped, you are hardly anything but fidgets.

We, active, differentiate the digits:

Whilst you are merely little toe and big

(Or, in the nursery, some futile pig)

Through vital use as pincers there has come

Distinction of the finger and the thumb;

Lacking a knuckle you have sadly missed

Our meaningful translation to a fist;

And only by the curling of that joint

Could the firm index come to have a point.

You cannot punch or demonstrate or hold

And therefore cannot write or pluck or mould:

Indeed, it seems deficiency in art

Alone would prove you the inferior part.



Not so, my friends. Our clumsy innocence

And your deft sin is the main difference

Between the body’s near extremities.

Please do not think that we intend to please:

Shut in the dark, we once were free like you.

Though you enslaved us, are you not slaves, too?

Our early balance caused your later guilt,

Erect, of finding out how we were built.

Your murders and discoveries compile

A history of the crime of being agile,

And we it is who save you when you fight

Against the odds: you cannot take to flight.

Despite your fabrications and your cunning,

            The deepest instinct is expressed in running.





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