Your father asked for more than a polka–dot tie, a self–portrait in Crayola or cinnamon
snickerdoodles flat as candle stubs on baking sheets. He grabbed you by the wrists
and severed your hands to wear on his key chain like a pair of lucky rabbit's feet.
What is so fortunate about a rabbit hopping about the prairie with a missing limb?
What if all four of its legs had been clipped? It eats only as far as it can stretch
it's neck, and then rolls itself on its back to perforate its starved belly with the blades
of its ribs. When the hunter returns, the rabbit will have its revenge, looking like
the amputated foot of its diabetic mother wearing that familiar bunny slipper.
Your father seized your hands, not out of malice, but greed —his wish to match
Midas and pocket the small golds of his kingdom — Rolex, wedding bands, crucifix,
and the precious treasure of your rings, which, little princess, will never leave
your fingers because Papi breaks no promises. He never abandoned you either,
always here when you come across your hairbrush, perched on the bristles
like a nesting pecker. Resolute, you age with ingenuity, learning to eat
right off the branch, nibbling apple, apricot, and pear without separating fruit
from stem. This is how you heard about the clever rabbit, from the hunter's son
who made love to you pressing his fists to the small of his back. He locked you
against the tree trunk and your shoulders splintered the bark. What a miracle
of an instrument, the piano that's played with elbows and knees and four clumsy
heels that for all their random reaching make the sweetest rhythms. Your bodies
danced each afternoon in the grove while your mother sewed the mysterious
tears in your dresses. You forgave your mother's inactivity that night when Papi
struck down your wrists with a cleaver, the mirror of the metal like a window
to a furnace, the shadow puppet butterfly emancipated finally. Who knew
chopped bone could sing? Maybe chicken doesn’t utter a note at its beheading
because its mother hen isn't near to cluck a frenzied requiem, Your mother
squealed as fiercely as a sow and your stumps looked like the blooded snouts
of swine. But all that rage escapes you now as you unleash the power of the hand
your father left intact, and with it grip your lover tighter into you. So this
is delectable defiance, Miss Rabbit — it must have been female to claim
the last word. You, girl, with no hands, can produce another pair and more:
legs, torso, head, and a bear trap of a jaw to bite the hands that feed her.
About the Author: Rigoberto González is a professor of English and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign and is Contributing Editor to Poets and Writers magazine. González is the author of the poetry collection So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until it Breaks, the novel Crossing Vines, and two bilingual children's books. His poems have also appeared in several anthologies including American Poetry: Next Generation and The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimms' Fairy Tales. For more information on the author, please visit the Rigoberto González website.
"The Girl With No Hands" copyright © 2003 by Rigoberto González. The poem first appeared in The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimms' Fairy Tales, edited by Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson (Story Line Press, 2003); it may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.