“Relic” by Kathleen A. Wakefield

Kathleen A. Wakefield


Only a severed finger was returned
from each of the bodies
—from an NPR hourly news report, March 2008

The one bruised

by hammer and rock

knew also the coolness of stone
rolled in the pocket, traced a name in dust,
hollow of a lover’s throat.

Steered lever, joystick, shovel, wheel, bullet and blade,
was part of a hand that wanted to strike
and did, a time or two.

In the great cities
hailed the cab. Pointed, This way.
Held aloft, sought the wind’s direction.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010


Kathleen A. Wakefield: “I was driving, listening to NPR when I heard a report about the return of only a single severed finger from each of three persons killed in Iraq. The story haunted me, and also touched a personal nerve. Over a period of about ten years, my mother went through a series of leg amputations, one leg, then the other, now one above the knee, and so on, because of a rare disease which eventually killed her. A friend who is an Orthodox Jew shared with me the custom of conducting a funeral for each part of the body as it is lost, an excruciatingly concrete reminder of one’s mortality, I thought. At the same time, I saw the great wisdom of recognizing the loss of a part of oneself. I kept wondering how the families in the news story could make peace with their terrible double loss, and so, wishing to offer something, I wrote ‘Relic.’” (website)

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