Cali Linfor

I Was Born with My Arms Fused in First Position

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

The March of Dimes paid for my surgeries. Little coins moving in rhythm like popcorn,
Candy & coke going to the snack bar on the screen of the dusk lit drive in the movie theater,
walk-a-thons on a Saturday morning each Spring.

Grubby unvalued money dropped into plastic slots & the smile of a child with a birth defect
at the Alpha Beta when someone couldn’t be bothered to put away their change & thought why not
do something nice.

Clink & chime of nickels hitting quarter & penny.  A lot like jacks on a mobile home’s floor
or my plaster cast banging against the high rail of my hospital crib yet muted in the din
of the checkout line.

These donations smelled sharp. The scent permeated to my little nose & my little face pressed close to better see the other kid who needed such offerings too. He looked happier and more wrecked than me, a picture of gratitude.

Always with the comparisons. I didn’t even notice you were disabled. Yes, your noticing
makes or unmakes me. Allows my body or disallows it. Your body normative, my body
doesn’t fit, too much or too little for this or that.

This charity box promises to fix us so you don’t have to see us like this anymore unless you want
to be inspired by how we get on despite being crippled.  Not that you use that word anymore.
You know better. Poor babies, you tut.

This supermarket fundraiser right next to the blue-chip stamps hopes to help, that I might be useful one day. Even desirable in some way or another.  I mean we got our dishes this way–one stamp,
one coin at time, when before we ate out of margarine tubs.

Thank you, my mama said to the doctors. Thank you, she said to the man with the clipboard who came to pay my medical bill, Thank you, she said to the clerk at the store. Then, she lets me
drop two precious laundry quarters into the slot.

I was briefly a ballerina though more of a tapper. I am too loud & interested in sound to tip toe
or merely look around with grace. Not a deer. But I had pink scuffed slippers & a falling down bun,

Where were we? Where was I? Oh, staring at my own body. Again. At these maps of a surgery
when I was less than three, Ink faded like snail glimmer in the afternoon of my life. A tracing of some way I used to be.

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About the Author

Cali Linfor (she/her/hers) is a lecturer, activist, poet and essayist living in San Diego. A mother and a widow. An animal lover, an all purpose nerd, and a bookworm. She has published poems, articles, and short stories in Wordgathering, The Beloit Poetry Review, Manzanita Review, Ekphrasis, and others. Cali was born with a genetic disability, Duane’s Radial Ray Syndrome, that has influenced her creative work. Her first book, A Book of Ugly Things, appears in Lantern Tree: Four Books of Poems. Currently, Cali is completing a second book of poetry entitled I, Animal.