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Prairie Schooner 79.4 (2005) 84-87
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Boy Raised by Wolves, and: The Girl Without Hands, and: Sleeping Beauty
Boy Raised by WolvesNot the pack's socialized carnage or yowls
Of mercy in the wild child's gut wrenching story,
But North 10th Street, a boy crouched against a dog
On the kitchen's stained tiles, his packed bag
In the hands of the caseworker there to save him
By rending him away. It's a lick in the face
That comes closest to fostering love
Not the system's forest of bureaucracy
Or the door slam of his late mother's sister
Back from cleaning up other people's messes
In hotels to smoke in her robe at the blinds
Furiously high. It's her gimpy stray
Of just as humble pedigree, a bitch,
As she's called without contempt, who smelled trouble,
Crept off the torn couch as when the muscled
Boyfriend returned ten seconds after leaving
For his stash, her ears down, her forbearing eyes more [End Page 84]
Human than sentient, Samuel Johnson's dog
Of despair which Goya painted in a last
Nameless mural, yearning from a sickly
Brown pinnacle of earth, the whole world
The chain that holds her back. If this boy drew
On his blank cracked plaster he'd get what he gets
Anyway too many nights according to the state.
Her he won't, a trifle of sticks and bones
He'll outgrow into a mean, aloof maturity.
But right now they're fused together, adhere
Like paint and wall, peering over the brink
At the rest of their days, no instinct for how
The worst happens for good reason. Housebroken,
Dumbly loyal, she lets him have his brief
Handful of fur, lets him bury his head
In her side, in that primitive mood, grief.
The Girl Without HandsLiving is so endless, a fairy tale
Bluntly cuts away the surplus, leaving
Just the odd detail, the stingy bone. Who knows
What story she tells to explain herself
That night he finds her eating in his orchard
Like a child bobbing for apples, a tall axe
Of a man just like her father when he stood
Over her in that dark room of his house,
Of a world she can't grasp, only behold?
Stories manipulate, change everything.
But she has nothing to lose, the hands
Like a lady's elegant white gloves [End Page 85]
Already misplaced. Of course he wants her
Though she's cold and pale to the touch, her whole
Body a stump, a voice remote from its words.
He gives her hands of silver, his upon her
However gentle just compensation,
Precious metal, the clumsiest compassion
Compared with what she must feel. But the son
She bears by the name of Sorrowful
Brims with her own blood, no prosthesis growing
Out of her. Only then do her born with hands
Return like fruit, love an extremity
Like a lizard's tail or the legs of a starfish
Mindless in its shallow glittering pool.
The boy maims her again into beauty;
Becomes her tenuous appendage, gone
The numbness, palpable the memory of sensation,
What she feared most, the phantom pain
And hellish pleasure. She's healed or so
The story says, writing off the devil
Who plagued her for no reason other
Than her purity. Then the man blunders in
The secret cottage and takes her in his arms,
Undoes her blouse because oh God, he's missed her;
The burden at last lifted but not really.
Sleeping BeautySix months on the street, she's one long swoon
Into loathsomeness, soiled jeans jacket, bits
Of city park sycamore leaves, a touch
Of forest embellishing her hair, no milk [End Page 86]
Carton runaway, booze the none too magic
But just as toxic curse, half a fifth in one
Dared swig, her companions yelling, slapping her face.
And the hero? He jogs in the same grass
But another world, has a sales meeting
In an hour, never his ambition to happen...