Amputation, and: Cauchemar
He didn’t have hands, just fists,sun-blackened knuckleswrapped around by a thumb,the black leather of a beltor mama’s soft, warm, brown flesh.Pick one.
These fists is all I got left me.Colored men’s got no usefor fingers in the city.No cotton and cane to reap or sow,just fabric by the yardand packets of Sweet ‘N Low.
My little wife, she turn them intodresses and pralines,curtains and beignets.She patch holes in our clothes,stitch poupées with button eyes and nose.She cook crawfish étouffées and gumbos.She make things.
I ball my fingers up meto let the worldgo out and come in,to lift luggages packed too heavy,and take hold of loose changein the same way it’s give me—dropped from a fist.Quite natural, my fingers get stiff.
I go to my little wife, try to touch her faceI go to the baby, try to play patty cakeand there’s a lump of skinwhere hands used to be.But what I need them for me?Now machines plant and pick the foodthat feeds my family.
You best to say your prayers, fiy, and sleep on your side. Less youwant Cauchemar to come and take you for a ride. Now say it after me,“Oh non da pèr et da fis et da sant esprit.”
“Now I lay me down to slee—” [End Page 447]
He a witch.
Then he a she. Or a demon. And a dead unbaptize. It don’t matterwhat he is. He take you for chval and won’t hear otherwise. When hepull his reins into your chest, he steal your voice, stop your breath.
I don’t know what he look like me. Cuz. “I pray the Lord my soul to kee—”
Just this one time…
He got two gran jòn holes with black slits in em for eyes.
What he do? You deaf? I jus tol you! He make me dead quiet. Like youneed to be. I was yellin and hollerin, but didn’t nothin come outta me.
I was yellin and hollerin, but didn’t nothin come outta me. [End Page 448]
Philana Omorotionmwan is a Louisiana native who holds a degree in English from Stanford University. Her poems have previously appeared in New Delta Review.