Losing a partner has been likened to losing a limb, and the phantom pain emanating from the place the limb once occupied can be crippling. Karolyn Stanley shares her perspective of this experience in her powerful poem, “The Operation,” an account so raw that it may not be suitable for all ages/audiences. The language may be rough, but no rougher than the experience, as those who’ve suffered the amputation of a partner will attest.
I am suffering “phantom Jim pain”
After having had a Jimectomy.
It happened so fast, the sudden blow
Then that agonizing ache no pill can alleviate.
Even my old frienbooze has neglected me
I have no desire to drink, no appetites at all.
Just nagging relentless restless wandering
From room to room, looking for my lost…
I’ve even forgotten what I was looking for
He was that much a part of me, he is still here
Virtually. I save things to tell him, record tv
Episodes he will never see, trapped as he is
Inside this biodegradable tomb they plant
You in, as if, in truth, we are all just compost.
Perhaps I will simply plant roses in you, you
Shall be your own secret garden, yes
With white and red and purple and yellow
I will add a little bullshit to you, you always did
Love the newspaper too, full of those hilarious
Headlines the interns write in the Spring.
And there shall be a headstone or a pile of
Those white rocks I used to love birthing
From the earth and add some shells from the
Beach we never had a chance to comb or brush
Either, for that matter. Ah I miss you, self
The other half of me. The better half by half
You see, you were always so kind, having been
Mortally wounded yourself by that removal of
Your own parents, who left you with only a few
Ounces of brother to replace them. And even he
Deserted you in the end, and then, Janie, who,
Like you, could survive everything but death.
Did I tell you I cannot change the sheets on the bed
Or go to the grocery store or open the mail, yet?
This is a fine mess you’ve left me in Ollie, halfway
Up the staircase with the back half of a piano.
You are laughing at this, I hear you
Through the walls of time. Looking for
Your scent or the touch of your hand,
Ask Ralph where he put the taste of you
Somewhere safe, no doubt, the keys to the car
With them, no doubt, that you are dead damnit, Jim
There is no doubt, I watched your beautiful soul
Slip out from between your lips. Your hair looked good
Though, did I tell you that, no, I don’t know
I can’t remember if I told you how good you looked
Lying there dying or is it dieing, you are not here to
Correct my spelling, you Bastard. God, how I miss you.
So here is the shitty first draft of your epitaph
You said at the end, I was the better poet of the two
Of us. It was not true, you were just being kind. I
Miss the Elf too, scattering puns like farts
No, maybe among the roses I will plant okra,
That loathsome slimy toad of a vegetable
It flowers beautifully I’m told, and you and
Woody will write a song about it and God will
Laugh her head off, at you two, and Janie and
Ralph and your grandmother and Winifred will play it
On celestial Pianos in perfect harmony
And I will hear it sung by the first dove this Spring.
–by Karolyn Stanley