Owed to the Fingers
Poetry - Spring 2023

Owed to the Fingers

Owed to the Fingers

By Steven C. Cramer, MD

Download the article (pdf)

Fingers make our lives go around
They snap and tap out daily sounds
They wave on a fetal ultrasound
And lower a coffin to the ground

They peel and poke and prod and pluck
And point with glee at a digger truck
They hide your mouth when you’re awestruck
And clink a flute filled with cold duck

They scoop ear wax and press thumb tacks
They flick on lights when you ride Amtrak
They hyperextend for a knuckle crack
After I go first, yours scratch my back

How many fingers has woman or man?
It’s a timeless, puzzling conundrum
Do most folks have five on each hand
Or four fingers plus one thumb?

Either way, let’s say, hail to the thumb
Trapezium’s crowning jewel
In the corner, Jack Horner’s best plum-pulling tool

Thumbs up from Bill Clinton, right after he lied
Thumbs down from Nero: “That man must die”
Thumb out, from the curb: “Can I have a ride?”
Thumb your nose if bellicose and find you’re tongue-tied

Index finger will plug a dyke, if it fits
In court rooms it points out the guilty culprits
In front of pursed lips it says hush now a bit
Taps twice on your temples to show you get it

The finger that’s third, midway through this herd
Displayed all alone means I flip you the bird
But add in its neighbor then peace is the word
When braided, good luck (or a lie has occurred)

A solo by others is typically rare
Though pinky alone can promise and swear
On ring fingers, wedding bands, with much fanfare
Are placed for the bride and her husband to wear

Fingers are best when they work in a team
Like Fernando Sor picked by Julian Bream
They signal “OK” when you’re offered ice cream
And write a prescription for cefotaxime

Together they’re vital to do Jujutsu
Let basketball refs show “Foul by 3 2”
Mock slice through your neck to show that you’re through
And type up the words of this poem for you.

Steven C. Cramer, MD

Steven C. Cramer, MD is a Professor of Neurology and the Susan and David Wilstein Chair in Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also the Director of Research at California Rehabilitation Institute, co-PI of the NIH StrokeNet clinical trials network, Associate Editor at Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, and a Section Editor at the journal Stroke. Dr. Cramer graduated with Highest Honors from University of California, Berkeley; received his medical degree from University of Southern California; did a residency in internal medicine at UCLA; and did a residency in neurology plus a fellowship in cerebrovascular disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also earned a Masters Degree in Clinical Investigation from Harvard Medical School.

His research focuses on neural repair after central nervous system injury in humans, with an emphasis on stroke and on recovery of movement. Treatments examined include robotics, cellular therapies, a monoclonal antibody, brain stimulation, drugs, and telehealth methods. A major emphasis is on translating new drugs and devices to reduce disability after stroke, and on developing biomarkers to individualize therapy for each person’s needs. Dr. Cramer has received the Stroke Rehabilitation Award from the American Heart Association, the Barbro B. Johansson Award in Stroke Recovery from the World Stroke Organization, the Award for Excellence in Post-Acute Stroke Rehabilitation from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Outstanding Neurorehabilitation Clinician Scientist Award from the American Society of Neurorehabilitation. He also co-edited the book “Brain Repair after Stroke,” and is the author of over 300 manuscripts.


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