A Free Hand
She speaks of the strangers
As the sunlight dims in her pale living room.
Her cats flee the approach of her wheelchair
As her lover switches on a lamp
And parks his wheelchair by the writing desk.
Inspecting her small, smooth, curled hands,
She says they are disfigured,
They attract the stares of strangers,
That she has hidden them under shawls
And purses set upon her lap.
But recently she has freed her hands,
Lets them swoop and glide in front of her
Like pigeons in front of Sproul Hall
On a blustery day.
Now that her hands are free,
They illuminate her thoughts,
Rising, flying, bursting,
Fireworks of flesh.
She is still assailed by walking strangers
And their gape-mouthed questions,
“What happened to you?”
Their stage-whispered asides,
“Isn’t it a shame that such a pretty girl . . . ?”
But now she says her voice becomes sharp,
Her eyes tense,
She waves a deriding arm,
And sacrificing poise for dignity,
Snarls her contempt for them and their machete words
That daily rip her flesh
In small, casual murders.