The stylish haircut rests
on a searching teen-aged face:
freckled nose, pale grey eyes,
cropped hair colored magenta.
The absence of arms is arresting.
Prostheses fit to nubs of flesh –
when clothed, they pass.
Gripping tender flesh
grimly to do their work, the arms
feel alien, even after six years.
Unseen at home, she goes bare
in faded T-shirts, using invented tools.
Once, she created a long-sleeved shirt
with hands severed from outdated
arms – cut, sewn, hot-glued
to denim cuffs. The shirt was comfy,
but impossible to control – hands
that grip demand connection.
Tools at Hand
The metal handles of her head were too hot to touch.
Lacking pot holders,
she was somewhat at a loss.
She knew she should serve up the contents of her head
for public consumption;
keeping it private was against the rules. But
she had no spoon either.
Her bed was covered with brightly-coloured rectangles,
like so many Rothko paintings.
She wanted to lie down.
On the desk was a piece of wood
and some nails – a hammer, too. Strange, that:
a hammer but no spoon….She quickly
grabbed the wood panel and used it
to cover her gaping head, nailing it on tightly.
Then she lay down on an orange rectangle and began to die.
It was a quiet, brief tragedy
in the tranquil Vermont countryside.
There wasn’t time to scream –
only a muted moan of surprise
spliced with the metallic squeal
of train wheels grinding past.
The two witnesses were
questioned, but had nothing to say.
Her wallet on the platform
located next of kin.
Her niece insisted the woman’s ashes
come home – she would want it that way.
The only option was cremation.
There was nothing to bury
except the flattened camera near her hand –
an image of an image of
She never felt comfortable with her breasts anyway –
they don’t always fit on a lesbian body.
The solidness of cancer hit hard on the drive home.
What can she say to her partner, the center of her world?
Their life together suddenly threatened by unseen invading cells.
Formidable women, they were up for the fight.
Months filled with needles and tubes, never-ending nausea,
forced smiles – finally, the offenders removed.
Healing meant rest, prayer, exercise, healthy eating.
The blessed day of back to work,
the anticipation of more years together.
A final farewell to disease – a celebration.
The surgeon’s knife traded for a tattooist’s needle –
these days, she revels in lifting her shirt to reveal the result.
A kaleidoscope of butterflies cascades over her chest.
About the Poet
Ginna Wilkerson has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from University of Aberdeen. Her first poetry collection, Odd Remains, was released in 2013, and her first YA novel, Buried Secrets, was released in July 2017 by JMS Books. She also has three short stories with JMS, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat,” When the Lights Go Out,” and “Message from Alice.”