The Amputee's Guide to Sex by Jillian Weise
(Soft Skull Press, 2007)
The Amputee's Guide to Sex explores and binds together two subjects that are often not even mentioned in the same sentence: disability and sex. In this debut collection, Weise explores vulnerability, passion, and pain.
Most people would not need a poem to know that the disabled might feel a bit vulnerable in a world where they are a minority. Weise transports this feeling into the bedroom. One speaker tells us this in “Abscission”:
Your favorite post-coital pastime
is nicknaming my scars.
The name for the railroad track
along my back – Engine.
This is a horrible “pastime” to have, but the speaker does not seem too concerned about the naming of scars.
Medical terms must communicate
clearly, I tell you, but that doesn't stop
you from asking what it feels like
when your hand is here, now here
While this could be a sign of the lover wanting to know if (s)he is turning “I” on, the barrage of questions seems only to be emphasizing the disability of the speaker. This is just one example of the morbid curiousity that Weise is able to channel throughout the book. But Weise's speakers are not defenseless. As the last stanza of “Nikita's Indian Restauraunt” demonstrates: “I picture Nona here with you eating / Indian food. When the man says, I want / to see her body, Nona sets him on fire.”
The Amputee's Guide to Sex is full of poetry that is on fire. Jillian Weise's charged verse not only makes for an engaging and powerful first collection, but should put her on the map as a poet to watch.
Nathan Logan is the editor of Spooky Boyfriend and a MFA candidate at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Some of his work has appeared/is forthcoming in No Tell Motel, pax americana, Read This, The Scrambler, and Taiga.