Double Arm Transplant by Karen Skolfield

“Not having arms takes so much away from you. Even your personality, you
know. You talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands.”
– Brendan Marrocco, Iraq war vet and double arm transplant recipient

Even grafted limbs sigh
when the rains come.
The hands, those twin divining rods,
may tremble in the presence
of an old love. Now they’re the arms
of a veteran. The hair that grows
from the arms a different shade.
Since the transplant he writes left handed.
He waits for the hands to reveal
their previous life as farmer or electrician.
By a piano he pauses to see
if the wrists rise to the music.
If the knuckles love the baseball.
If the fist curls in anger. Before:
did he drum his fingers on the desk?
Was the salute quite so crisp?
On its own, the pinky angles to the teacup.
It’s the giver of these arms speaking
whenever he debones a fish or juggles.
Every time a tennis ball comes down
it sits in the palm for a moment,
then rises again.


Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas (2013) won the First Book Award for Poetry from Zone 3 Press. She is the poetry editor for Amherst Live, a quarterly production of poetry, politics, and more. She’s also a contributing editor at the literary magazine Stirring and her poems have appeared in Best of the Net AnthologyCave WallMemoriousRattleTar River PoetryVerse DailyWest Branch, and others. Visit her online at