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The Cast

Sharon Olds

When the doctor cut off my son’s cast the

high scream of the saw filled the room

and the boy’s lap was covered with fluff like the

chaff of a new thing emerging, the

down in the hen-yard. Down the seam that

runs along the outside of the arm and

up the seam along the inside — that

line where the colour of a white boy’s arm

changes like a fish from belly-white to prismatic,

the saw ranged freely — the saw that does not cut flesh,

the doctor told us, smiling. Then the

horrible shriek ran down in a moment to nothing

and he took a sharp silver wedge like a

can-opener and jimmied at the cracks

until with a creak the glossy white

false arm cracked and there lay the kid’s

sweet dirty forearm, thin as a darkened twig.

He lifted it in astonishment, like a gift,

It’s so light! he cried, a lot of light coming out of his eyes,

he fingered it and grinned, he picked up the

halves and put them together and gripped it and

carried it out through the waiting room and

everyone smiled the way you smile at a wedding, so

deep in us the desire to be healed and joined.


From The North No 5 (1989)