When they leathered his arm to the armrest and began
like manicurists in a nail salon
he says that he “retreated” from his hand
until the part of him that dwelt there once was gone
and heard no news from his own outer reaches.
In his memoir of those years, he sketches
the tricks he used, one of which was “vision.”
Maybe it’s better we present his version:
“I imagined my arm as a slope I had to scale,
shaft of the humerus as smooth as shale
but white like bone and giving way like sand
wherever I set foot. I couldn’t stand,
couldn’t take a breather, or I’d ride my own
disintegration down and end up on
the shore—which was my hand, my fingernails.
I crested my shoulder, rested on its knoll.
I looked down then and saw the pain as men
charging uphill to where I hid my sense
of pain. At once I stomped a foot to see
the whole arm crack, calve, crash into the sea,
disarticulated, part of me no more.
I did this for the other arm and for
my feet and testicles and eyes until
I found myself on a Pacific atoll
that had no latitude, no longitude.
I built a hut, I scuttled the one canoe.
I saw a sun that weighed a kiloton
and the power cord by which it swung.”
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