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Cripples And Other Stories

 My doctor, the comedian
I called you every time
and made you laugh yourself
when I wrote this silly rhyme.
Each time I give lectures or gather in the grants you send me off to boarding school in training pants.
God damn it, father-doctor, I'm really thirty-six.
I see dead rats in the toilet.
I'm one of the lunatics.
Disgusted, mother put me on the potty.
She was good at this.
My father was fat on scotch.
It leaked from every orifice.
Oh the enemas of childhood, reeking of outhouses and shame! Yet you rock me in your arms and whisper my nickname.
Or else you hold my hand and teach me love too late.
And that's the hand of the arm they tried to amputate.
Though I was almost seven I was an awful brat.
I put it in the Easy Wringer.
It came out nice and flat.
I was an instant cripple from my finger to my shoulder.
The laundress wept and swooned.
My mother had to hold her.
I know I was a cripple.
Of course, I'd known it from the start.
My father took the crowbar and broke the wringer's heart.
The surgeons shook their heads.
They really didn't know-- Would the cripple inside of me be a cripple that would show? My father was a perfect man, clean and rich and fat.
My mother was a brilliant thing.
She was good at that.
You hold me in your arms.
How strange that you're so tender! Child-woman that I am, you think that you can mend her.
As for the arm, unfortunately it grew.
Though mother said a withered arm would put me in Who's Who.
For years she has described it.
She sang it like a hymn.
By then she loved the shrunken thing, my little withered limb.
My father's cells clicked each night, intent on making money.
And as for my cells, they brooded, little queens, on honey.
Oh boys too, as a matter of fact, and cigarettes and cars.
Mother frowned at my wasted life.
My father smoked cigars.
My cheeks blossomed with maggots.
I picked at them like pearls.
I covered them with pancake.
I wound my hair in curls.
My father didn't know me but you kiss me in my fever.
My mother knew me twice and then I had to leave her.
But those are just two stories and I have more to tell from the outhouse, the greenhouse where you draw me out of hell.
Father, I am thirty-six, yet I lie here in your crib.
I'm getting born again, Adam, as you prod me with your rib.

Poem by Anne Sexton
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