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Body Hunger

Howard Stein

in memory of Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (1986)

the yearning
to be touched
by hands that mean it
by hands that want to touch

the longing for hands
to release the skin
from solitary confinement
and a sentence of death

About the poet:

Howard F. Stein is professor emeritus in the department of family and preventive medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, where he taught for nearly thirty-five years. He is now group facilitator with the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center in Oklahoma City. He has written twenty-eight books, including nine books or chapbooks of poetry. His most recently published poetry book is Raisins and Almonds (2014). A new book of poetry, Light and Shadow, will be published in fall 2016, and he is currently revising and expanding his 1994 book Listening Deeply for University of Missouri Press. His books can be found at Amazon authors [1].

About the poem:

“Some years ago, a family-medicine resident or faculty member gave me a gentle pat on my forearm, and a wave of gratitude and surprise swept over me. I puzzled over it, wondering how so ordinary an event could be so significant, almost redemptive. I hadn’t realized how hungry for touch I had been, and how the touch had interrupted my sense of isolation. I also remembered hearing that Lynn Carmichael, one of the founders of family medicine, carried a nail clipper with him on hospital rounds and trimmed the toenails of his elderly patients. It sounded to me like a sacrament.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer