Ragless, lesser man

But why must all the operations in life be performed without an anesthetic?
— Ernest Hemingway: To Have and Have Not (1937)

After being left in mud,
a lesser man
and close to corpse
I was useless
even for a soldier’s death,
so the barber-surgeon
brought his bone-saw to remove
my useless limbs.

He was drunk
but out of booze
pushed a soggy rag into my mouth
and all I could do
was to clench my teeth.

After being left your letter
telling why I was
a lesser man, I found
I didn’t even have a piece of cloth
(and still no booze)
to dull the pain
of being parted,
limbless, ragless far from you
with only phantom pains
to keep me sleepless

drowning.

Amputation
Odd Nerdrum

Today Lisa hosts at dVerse and asks us to write a poem based on quotes by Ernest Hemingway. The quote made me think of the parallel between an amputation without anesthesia and a lost love. I must admit I have not read that many of Hemingway’s books, but it made me wish to read something again, but the terrible loss at the end of “farewell to arms” must have felt like an amputation.

June 22, 2021

29 responses to “Ragless, lesser man

  1. This is exquisitely drawn, Bjorn! This particular bit stood out for me; “After being left your letter telling why I was a lesser man, I found
    I didn’t even have a piece of cloth (and still no booze) to dull the pain
    of being parted.”💝💝

  2. Bjorn you took the idea and ran with it. The amputation without anesthetic and the lonely soldier in the hospital ward after his dear john letter are breaking my heart 😦

  3. Oh my goodness, this is visceral! I could feel the amputation without anaesthetic, and I love the way you brought in the lost love which caused so great a pain that the operation couldn’t even be felt!

  4. Lucy was right, your echoes of Dalton Trumbo are profound. You are amassing war poems for an eventual volume of them, published after your old librarian series.

  5. While on this subject, try reading his short stories “Indian Camp” and “A Natural History of the Dead.” Grim stuff.

    –Shay

  6. I think we’re on the same vibe this time Bjorn, though your work is far more visceral (and effective, I think) than mine. Kudos!

  7. a sad reality for too many, you captured the pain of both so well!

    ” I found
    I didn’t even have a piece of cloth
    (and still no booze)
    to dull the pain
    of being parted”
    hit hard …

  8. Bjorn,
    A searing read, as searing as the pain metaphorized in the barber-surgeon’s hacking with a bone-saw, and unrelenting throughout, and we are left as crushed and maimed as the persona who sees his life now as agonizing and futile.
    pax,
    dora

  9. Wow, this is incredible. Really excellent, gruesome work.

    I love his style. I’m glad you quoted him. This reminds me of In Love and War, which is about Hemingway.

  10. oh. yes, unfortunately, yes. (though I in fact have whiskey. but still, it in no way compensates for the amputation and insomnia.) ~

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