I never knew how much a finger

mattered until I had to do without one.

Now, there’s nothing left to lick wet,

raise in the air, see which way wind is blowing.

I miss it for dialing on a touch tone phone,

picking up Planter’s salty peanuts

to complement an ice cold beer.

I can’t wag “Shame, shame on you”

when naughty brats defy their elders;

no other finger can compete for accuracy

picking your nose or digging wax out of an ear.

Dodging cold-blooded bullets under frozen stars,

ordered not to leave my post at Chosin Reservoir,

frostbitten hands could no longer hold my piece.

A medic led me to MASH 43 where a surgeon

lopped off my finger to save my hand.

A missing digit, a ticket home.

The VA’s compensating fifty bucks a month

keeps me in cigarettes and cheap wine,

but it’s tough trying to button a shirt or tie my shoes.

I need help feeling my way to my gal’s tender parts

igniting those subterranean fires.

I curse the stupidity of war!

Returning home to our Binghamton farm

I blend right in with farming neighbors

with missing fingers lost untangling

a snagged bush-hog backhoe,

plugged-up combine or Kubota loader.

Taciturn men who rarely complain mutter:

“It’s the cost of doing business.”