Dara Elerath

Testimony of an Armless Man
July 18, 2019 Elerath Dara




I lost my arms in a farming accident, but later found I’d grown phantom limbs. There were many things I could no longer do, yet my injury gave me certain gifts. I could caress my wife’s phantom breast, for example—the one she’d lost to cancer the previous winter—and brush against my fingertips, from a distance of six thousand miles, the famed Yubari melons of Japan. If a girl in town went missing, I could read her lips by touch and discover her hidden location. Grateful though I was, I longed to hold my own son. Each day I waited to feel him tug my empty sleeve, to climb on the bed and lay beside me. Then, one summer, he died—nothing could console me. Years later I woke with a strange weight in my limbs. My son, I whispered, is it you? I felt the soft contours of a head shift against my chest and knew I would carry him the rest of my life. No one could talk to me any longer, ask about their absent loved ones or the sweetness of a Japanese melon. Even now as I tell this story I am holding my boy—he is so cold, so silent, his head so heavy against me.

Dara Elerath earned her MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Poet Lore, The Los Angeles Review, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. Her critical writing has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly. She resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico.