A stranger steps into your (spacious, sunlit, well-appointed) cell
and asks you, with impeccable politeness,
to chew off your thumb.
Your protest, reasonably. It’s my thumb, you point out.
An essential appendage. You just can’t just…
Your jailor is courteous but firm.
There is no problem whatsoever, he assures you.
Just chew off your thumb and you’re free.
The moment you’ve chewed off your thumb, he promises,
you can walk.
He understands your frustration.
He offers you fruit juice, fresh towels, football on TV.
All the creature comforts, all the consolation, you might require.
Just chew off your thumb, he requests.
I’ll be back in an hour,
To see how you’re getting on. No pressure.
You sit and ponder such things as sinews.
You consider the strength of your teeth,
the softness of your tongue.
He returns. His patience, his compassion,
It’s a simple thing, he says;
his voice soothes.
We just want you to chew off your thumb.
I have tried, you implore.
He gazes back at you
With inexhaustible sympathy.
His manner is consoling.
He calls you by your first name.