Episode of Hands

Crane, Hart

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: May-17-1994
  • Last revised: Aug-17-2006


The gashed hand of a factory worker is bandaged by the factory owner’s son. The worker is at first embarrassed, then compliant. As his fingers work, the owner’s son begins to notice the details of the other hand and to conjure images--"wings of butterflies" and "the marks of wild ponies’ play"--in the worker’s rough hand. Somehow this establishes a brief bond that transcends the class barrier between the two in an act of healing.


Crane follows Whitman in his willingness to find beautiful images anywhere, even in this homoerotic exchange between two males of different social class. Few other literary works make these two points about the clinical encounter: that eroticism is potentially present in the physical contact between patient and caregiver; and that social class is also brought to the encounter where, like eroticism, it should ideally be transcended.


Originally Composed: 1920

Primary Source

The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane



Place Published

New York




Brom Weber