Explication

Unaware of his loss until
a warm day when he wears

shorts above a black
titanium leg, I see

him step onto a field of poppies
or stumble upon a bomb

outside of Basra, a limb
blasted to bits. I try

not to look, but my eye
returns to the prosthesis beneath

his desk just as the snarling
saw in Frost’s “Out, Out—” leaps

from the boy’s grip. My student listens
as I read, his unflinching

eyes track the long lines. Others
gaze out the window

at dappled light, a breeze
stirring leaves. As I define

allusion, narrative, blank
verse, enjambment, the irony

of teaching a student without a leg
to explicate a poem about amputation

and death hits me. He circles words
in his text and jots marginalia, pale

companions to flesh
and bone—the alliteration of stove-length

sticks, supper, and sunset, the slant
rhyme of laugh, half, and off. What

does it mean to lose a limb
to a machine that cuts

a young life down
to planks? We home in on Frost’s

understated ending
and turn tissue-thin

pages to another poem
until our time is up.

 

 

 

 

copelandBeth Copeland’s second poetry collection, Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVOX Books, 2012), was runner up in the North Carolina Poetry Council’s 2013 Oscar Arnold Young Award for North Carolina’s best book of poetry. Her first book, Traveling through Glass, received the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. She is retired from full-time teaching at Methodist University, where many of her students were veterans. She lives in a log cabin in North Carolina.