Electric EDGE
Web Edition of
The Ragged Edge
March/April 1998

Electric Edge

Poems by Jim Ferris

Notes from the Surgeons: Drs. Sofield, Louis, Hark, Alfini, Millar, Baehr, Bevan-Thomas, Tsatsos, Ericson, and Bennan
6-10-60. History. This child is the second of three
children - the other two are perfectly normal. He was the product
of a normal pregnancy and delivery. At birth it was noted
that the left lower extremity was shorter than the right. The child
had a fragmentation and rodding of the left femur
for stimulation of bone growth. Prior to that procedure a 2" discrepancy
existed. This procedure was repeated in 1957 and again in 1958. Prior to the procedure in
1958 a 2" discrepancy was again noted. The child's
early development was normal. He has, of course, been periodically set back
in his physical progress because of the surgical procedures.
6-10-60. Physical examination. Head: ;There is nothing
abnormal about the head. Left lower extremity :There appears
to be only a very moderate degree of atrophy in the left thigh, but
this is explainable on the basis of his surgical procedures.
Gait is moderately abnormal but caused only
by the leg length discrepancy.
7-28-61. History. He began sitting at six months of age, talked
at one year, and began talking at about one year of age. There have been
some periods of regression following the early surgical procedures. The boy
is attending school and is apparently well adjusted.
7-28-61. Physical Examination. Examination reveals a slight
compensatory scoliosis. This is corrected by equalization of leg lengths.
This boy walks with a left short leg limp. He is able to run without difficulty,
and can hop on his right foot, but he is unable to hop on his left foot. When performing
the duck waddle his left leg leads the right.
12-7-62. Neurological Examination. Deep tendon reflexes
are physiological. There is a slight diminution of the left knee jerk
as contrasted with that on the right. No sensory loss nor pathologic reflexes.
8-28-63. Progress Notes. The mother relates that the boy has been
stumbling more and more in recent weeks. His quadriceps are
quite weak, probably from the multiple surgical procedures
done on his thigh. Quadriceps are rather bound down at the knee.
The leg length discrepancy is 3" and it is very difficult
to have a satisfactory shoe lift on this dimension. A long leg brace
was ordered with knee locks and with a 2" pylon extension.
11-8-63. Progress Notes. This boy has received his long leg brace
with the caliper extension today. The brace is satisfactory,
except for the fact that the ankle joint is rigid and
he has a great deal of difficulty getting his trousers on and off
and needs to split the seams.
8-14-64. Progress Notes. This child who is almost 10 years of age
is wearing a long leg brace with a stilt on it, but the mother says
that he objects to this and apparently is undergoing considerable
emotional disturbance. The mother has noticed this since his return
from the hospital at which time he had a repeat fragmentation and rodding.
4-7-67. Physical Examination. Lower extremities: Circumference:
There is obvious atrophy of the left thigh: This cannot
be accurately compared with the right because of the shortness
of the extremity and the dislocation of the patella.
6-6-69. History. The child is in the ninth grade and does fair
and goes to a regular school.
10-30-70. Progress Notes. Final Discharge. The patient is essentially
unchanged since last visit. His leg lengths measured to the heel
on the right measures 101 and 86 on the left from the anterior superior
iliac spine. He has occasional episodes of pain. He is still
wearing the long leg brace with the high lift below
and there was no indication on the mother's part that she plans
on having anything done in the near future.

from The Shriners Suite: A poetic sequence
Hospital Smell
Overpowering black rubber held to your face
and if you want to breathe at all you have to breathe
through the rubber, breathe the rubber, you can't get up
and you can't stop breathing so you take that stifling
rank claustrophobic vertigo smell deep inside
until it fouls your every cell, until your soul
is coated with oily muck, until the whole world
lurches, whirls out of control, until you black out.
For many years I couldn't enter a tire store
without my back crawling, without stopping to steel
my body, without plugging my mind's nose so that
I could tend to my car. When I was eleven
they started using pentothal. Though I'd still puke
and puke upon waking, one rough spot was smoothed some.
Watching Mars
At night
you could see Mars
across the railroad tracks -
aliens in lab coats doing
God knows
what in
blue-green light. I
guessed they doctored candy
bars on second shift - sometimes Mars
bars would
for us - still, those
days, I never could see
past the lab coats enough to tell
for sure.
New Cast
Sometimes blood would seep from the wound
into damp plaster, and evening rust
would mingle with whitewash white,
reminding all who cared to look just
what well-intentioned violence
lay under that stiff, brittle trust.

Jim Ferris is a poet living in Madison, Wisconsin.


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