Home > Poetry > Self-Portrait as Amputation
Elizabeth Knapp
Published: Fri Jul 1 2005
Art: Paul TheriaultEver New (detail), 2022, acrylic and found paper on scavenged wood
Self-Portrait as Amputation

It was in Frost’s “Out, Out—”
_           _that I found it, imago of myself

as amputee, the Mansfield ridge
_           _like a saw in the background

and the Vermont sky clotting
_           _into dusk. Farm bells. Suppertime.

And the saw, _as if to prove
_           saws knew what supper meant,

grinding through sinew and bone.
_           _Though Frost tells it differently,

I imagine the boy said nothing,
_           _no rueful laugh, as the life poured

out of him and the others watched
_           _dumbfounded, numb. Something

tells me it was no accident.
_           _There is loss, and then there is

what the mind freely gives up:
_           He must have given the hand_. If I cut

the part of me that wakes
_           _every morning wondering

how I could be whole—
_           _arms and legs intact, vertebrae

still stacked along the track
_           _of spine, skull still bobbing

on its pliant stem—I’d leave
_           _another part dangling, ghost-

limb tingling where the heart
_           _once skid. Is it better this way,

body still remembered, while skin
_           _grows thin and taut over a loss

so clean it can never be replaced?

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