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?
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.