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Self-Portrait as Amputation

by Elizabeth Knapp

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?


Elizabeth Knapp’s poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Bellingham Review, and Poet Lore, among others. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and is currently a PhD candidate in poetry at Western Michigan University, where she serves as associate poetry editor of Third Coast.

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