Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Warts and All

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Warts and All

Article excerpt

"Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I'm done with ye!"

-Huck Finn, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

When we first meet Huck Finn, in Tom Sawyer,

he's swinging by the tail a dead cat-good,

he tells Tom, for curing warts-though you need

someone wicked just buried, and a devil

or two or three in the graveyard at midnight. . .

It sounds crazy to us now, like catching warts

from frogs, or Tom's remedy, spunk water-

rain that's pooled in a rotted-out stump-which Huck

refutes, by the way, citing as a source

a "nigger," whom even Tom must concede

likely wouldn't have lied, "though he never see

a nigger that wouldn't." That troublesome word

is all over Tom Sawyer, and of course

Huckleberry Finn, like the warts that sprouted

on my fingers when I was eleven,

those viral growths that festered along the nails

and their barely risen moons. Not long ago

a white publisher in Montgomery,

Alabama, tried to burn the word away

by changing it in his own printing of Huck

to the word "slave." It was hardly a salve.

He was like the dermatologist who dipped

a long cottony Q-tip in a thermos

and swabbed my fingers with liquid nitrogen

so cold my hands were useless for an hour. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.