REPORT OF INJURY
What do you want to do with the leg,
asked the doctor to my mother. She says it was
the same day John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane crashed.
There is no version of this for me. If I tell my story,
it sounds like her story. If I tell another story, it sounds
I am not cruel.
When my boyfriend told me
he was gay, I thanked him. He told me
this was evidence of my kindness,
which if it is, it isn’t.
The evidence of my father’s amputation
was the leg, that the doctor didn’t want.
That my mother didn’t want. That my father,
well, it was his leg. If he had it his way,
it would still be his leg.
If the doctor had asked my father,
he would have made a joke. If it was me,
I would have made a joke.
After we broke up,
I told someone that no one could ever say
I was homophobic.
I loved a gay man, I said.
The leg was burned, incinerated. For Hindus,
cremated. Except it happened without God.
I used to think it was the fire, but actually God is the most important part.
I used to think it was the sex, but actually who you love
is the most important part.
This is a good story. I almost cried at the thought of us
having sex and now I never have to.
Now I never have to.
Once he came out, I came out. I just needed the vocabulary,
to name a no-nothing. To say I’m asexual and
it’s not the absence of love,
or the absence of anything.
I’m real and right here.
It wasn’t the absence of the leg. It was real and right there.
It’s what we had to do with it. How it had to burn,
like a prophecy. Because my father died,
just like John F. Kennedy Jr. died,
except without the fanfare. No wreckage
or headlines. Did a doctor ask my mother
about the body? Miss, what do you want to do with the body?
Of course not. Everyone knows what to do with the body.
I never knew what to do with a body, which should have been
a sign of selfishness, or a sign of trauma.
It used to feel like a sign of hatred.
But I never hated any of them.
I loved them and I wanted them to get as close as possible.
We got as close as possible.
My father’s knee was as close as possible
to the stump, which if you know anything about
amputation, it’s a good thing. It meant he could walk
from the knee, which is how most of us walk.
It meant that if he was relearning,
it would be the kind of learning he already knew.
In the weeks after the breakup, I wanted to find information
for people like me, who thought that life was going one way
until it wasn’t. Lost people. Sad people. People learning
a new language.
Do you know what the big difference is
between romance and friendship?
When other people pulled away, I felt it in me,
like a bone snapping.
This time, there was no snapping. One day,
I woke up to this unbelievable shift.
My body doesn’t do certain things anymore. My body
We were always friends. We are still friends.
I have all my knees.
I know, I’m shameful for telling this story,
in my mother’s story. I can’t keep well enough alone.
God, what do you want to do with the leg?
What do I want to do with the leg? I used to rub that leg.
I remember faded brown scars on the shin, by the ankle.
I used to think I was helping.
What do you want to do with the leg?
It just feels like a waste — all that time, all that love.
Don’t you wish you could keep it? Don’t you wish
you could keep the best part?
By Yena Sharma Purmasir
Yena Sharma Purmasir is a poet author from New York City. She was the Queens Teen Poet Laureate for the 2010-2011 academic year. Her first book of poetry, Until I Learned What It Meant, was published by Where Are You Press in 2013. When I’m Not There, her second book of poetry, was published in 2016. Purmasir graduated from Swarthmore College in 2014 with a major in Psychology and minors in English Literature and Religion Studies. She was awarded the Chuck James Literary Prize from Swarthmore College’s Black Cultural Center. She believes in the power of hard work, second chances, and, above all, love.