Phantom Limbs

My vigilance has paid off: I saw another man with an arm missing today.

He was wearing a long-sleeve sweater (it was rather chilly and windy today), and the cuff of the empty left sleeve was stuffed into his left-hand hip pocket. (Can I even say “left-hand hip pocket” in his case?) First I thought he wanted people to think he just had his hand in his pocket. But on closer examination, I think it’s more likely because he didn’t want a swinging empty sleeve to get snagged on sharp or rough surfaces. Or to be tugged on by small children.

So, that’s two right arms and one left arm I’ve seen — or rather, not seen — missing in the last couple of days.

Why do I never see armless women?

Severed limbs are so bizarre. The moment a body part is separated from the body, it becomes something else. The body is still the body. It just weighs slightly less. But the body part becomes a dead object. Useless refuse. Something to bury. Somethign to preserve. It could even be art. We make pictures with crayons by what the crayon leaves behind on the paper. Can we make art with what we leave behind of our bodies?

Is it even ours when it is removed? We always talk about “my hand” or “my leg,” but if that hand or leg is lopped off, is it mine anymore? I can’t do anything with a severed arm it except maybe beat someone over the head with it or use it as a door stop. Whether I want to keep that arm or not, it’s sort of given back to the earth at that point, in a way, isn’t it? Relinquished to the cycle of decay and creation and everything that is outside of our bodies.


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the untallied hours

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