John Wetmore

Asomatognosia (n.):
A neurological disorder characterized as loss of recognition or awareness of part of the body (usually following a stroke or traumatic brain injury), which sometimes manifests in delusions.

~after the Brothers Grimm


In the near future I see you sitting there
after the stroke—puff of white hair
like whipped cream topping
the slumped vanilla scoops
of your body.

I am guiding a plump white snake
through the blue sleeve of your button-up,
a pearl python with five-fingered head.
You deny that it belongs to you,
shunning the work it has done
for us throughout your life.
You call it a cold-blooded
apparition, even as I hold
your fingers in my palm
and run my thumb over
your wedding ring.

At that point, I will give up
asking to whom the arm belongs.
You’ve insisted it is Grandpa’s,
or Nana’s, or even mine.
After awhile, I will consider claiming
the arm as a son’s inheritance.
I will think about sneaking off with it,
telling you it finally slithered away.

When I have it, I will take a bite
of the smooth serpent’s flesh
and it will grant me certain powers
like in the fairy-tale you used to read to me.
I will hold palaver with pigeons
on the sill of the hospital room—
ask them if birds ever hear
of phantom feathers, of disowned
wings. I will command them to scour
Earth for that Golden Fruit—
the Apple of Life. When they
return, I will share it with you,

and when you taste its juice
you will wonder where your arm
has gone, what happened
to the rough hand that gently
slapped your son’s blue cheek,
that kept him awake while
the ambulance’s white sides
cleaved the night’s dark heart
and the siren drained
its silent blood.

You will remember
when I poisoned myself
and how you brought me back.
You will never forget the arm
that cradled my head
on the cold tile when
I denied that my body
was mine.

John Thomas Wetmore teaches Creative Writing at a performing arts magnet high school in Willimantic, CT. Though he teaches ten (yes, ten!) different courses at once, he could not be more grateful to have a job that allows him to tinker with words in the presence of so many brilliantly mad young minds.