A Woman With No Legs

by Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz

for Lona Barrackman

Plays solitaire on TV trays  with decks of old casino cards Trades
her clothes for faded nightgowns long & loose like ghosts Drinks
water & Diet Coke from blue cups with plastic bendy straws Bathes
twice a week Is dropped to the green tiles of her HUD home while
her daughters try to change her sheets & a child watches through
a crack in the door Doesn’t attend church services cakewalks or
Indian Days parades Slides her old shoes under the legs of wooden
tables & chairs Lives years & years in beds & wheelchairs stamped
“Needless Hospital” in white stencil Dreams of playing kick-the-
can in asphalt cul-de-sacs below the brown hum of streetlights about
to burn out Asks her great-grandchildren to race from one end of
her room to the other as fast as they can & the whole time she whoops
Faster! Faster! Can’t remember doing jackknifes or cannonballs
or breaking the surface of the Colorado River Can’t forget being
locked in closets at the old Indian school Still cries telling how
she peed the bed there How the white teacher wrapped her in her
wet sheets & made her stand in the hall all day for the other Indian
kids to see Receives visits from Nazarene preachers Contract
Health & Records nurses & medicine men from Parker who knock
stones & sticks together & spit magic saliva over her Taps out
the two-step rhythm of Bird dances with her fingers Curses in
Mojave some mornings Prays in English most nights Told me
to keep my eyes open for the white man named Diabetes who is out
there somewhere carrying her legs in red biohazard bags tucked
under his arms Asks me to rub her legs which aren’t there so I
pretend by pressing my hands into the empty sheets at the foot of
her bed Feels she’s lost part of her memory the part the legs knew
best like earth Her missing knee caps are bright bones caught in
my throat.

When My Brother Was An Aztec

Last updated December 15, 2022