Kristin LaFollette – I Wrote a High School English Paper on Hand Surgery

Kristin LaFollette

I Wrote a High School English Paper on Hand Surgery

I was going to be a surgeon once—

When you’re 17 years old,
anesthesia smells like paper,
a cellar after a flood

(old water mixed with mud and glass jars)—

At 17 years old, I wrote about how to be a surgeon
with post-operative skin, a once-moving joint
                                              with metals and glue,

wrote about wrapping
                             instruments with colored
foam like I did with
writing utensils—

As a 17-year-old, I stood on a stepstool
in an operating room, watched staples
inserted into skin, smelled bone dust
and cauterized                  fat, listened to
someone              recite the details of knee

                                                            replacement surgery

When blood was on my hands, I held them
close to my face, smelled the familiar smell
of wet fabric, the movement of cells collecting


The insides of bones are soft, easy to burrow into

               An x-ray of my marrow showed the intricate
               pieces that hold me together—

I wanted to tell everyone I would be a doctor—

the kind with foam-covered
pencils and soft bones


Kristin LaFollette is a PhD candidate at Bowling Green State University and is a writer, artist, and photographer. She is the author of the chapbook Body Parts (GFT Press, 2018) and has had her writing featured in the anthologies Ohio’s Best Emerging Poets (2017) and America’s Emerging Poets 2018: Midwest Region. You can visit her on Twitter at @k_lafollette03 on her website at

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