PROSTHETICS, Jessica Goody

by Jessica Goody

Blind eyes stare from behind glasses,
chunks of plastic, rubber, and clay
filling the clear lenses:
the blank eyes of the shell-shocked,
empty and silver, staring at the violence
their minds have never ceased to see.

White plaster busts display masks
of bloated rubber faces, thick-lipped and silent.
A wall of faces that stare,
flat and menacing as a Halloween mask.
Flesh is replaced with falseness,
the carnage disguised by plasticity.
Their faces are sunken, sagging
where white teeth have been blasted away,
leaving craters where nose or lips used to be,
now a rictus, a wet red pit without speech or smile.

They are the faces of comic book villains
and Picasso portraits, vivid and misshapen:
Noses pulped, flattened, as though erased.
Lips twisted, tilted, incapable of being wrung into a smile.
Eyebrows are painted lines rendered on smooth plastic,
stippled with freckles, a complexion as unnatural as a doll’s.
Chins are bolted onto flesh like riveted steel.

They are limp marionettes, patchwork men
stuffed with cardboard and sawdust,
pieced together with scraps
like Frankenstein’s prototype,
rendered mentally feeble and cringing with horror.
Like Proteus they have shape-shifted into something fantastic.
They are Tin Men, limping cyborgs, armored knights
worn weary from too many dragons slain.

Noses have melted away, bitten off by explosions;
blood, metallic and bitter-tasting, trickles down the groove
etched between nose and mouth.
The place where his eye used to be is a dark hollow, a knothole.
His empty eyelid is stretched, and bruised dark like rotten fruit.
White lightning-streaks of scar tissue slash his cheekbones
like tribal war-paint, the mark of a warrior. It is a pyrrhic victory.

He has drawers of body parts to choose from.
Glass eyes stare robotically,
set like gemstones on jewelers’ velvet:
marbles of green, brown, blue
to be fitted like taxidermy specimens.
The cracked china face of a broken doll,
one long-lashed eye winking shut.
No longer a man but a mannequin.

It is a bandit’s mask, the bare eye sockets
only slightly less frightening
than the glassy, unseeing stare.
He resembles a Lon Chaney character
in a silent film, grotesque and somehow pitiful.
His upper lip is scarred and flat,
hidden beneath a curving walrus mustache.
He is handsome yet incorporeal, not completely human.

False legs are strapped to amputated limbs
as smooth as butternut squash,
round and red, dangling like deli meat
from a butcher-shop window.
Plastic hands strain to touch,
their fingers registering no texture, no warmth.

Painted shards of plastic are adhered to faces.
They are hard and hollow, fitting like puzzle pieces, like tectonic plates.
A glass eye stares coldly, like a bird of prey.
The eye does not blink. It stares fixedly and unnerving.
The colored ridge of eyebrow does not move,
does not rise or furrow with expressive punctuation.

Their features might be made of clay,
to be molded like a sculptor’s pot,
flesh-colored, thick and foreign.
Their faces are pitted and pocked
with scars thick as tree roots,
Cauliflower faces like a tumorous
pugilist’s ear. They resemble zombies,
these automatons, bearing hinged steel limbs
studded with rivets instead of freckles,
the robotic arms and silvery legs
hairless and effeminate, shapely as a showgirl’s
beneath the creased military khaki.


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