Severance: The Armless Maiden Speaks

by Jane Yolen

It takes time not miracles,

to heal, that small growth,

a finger’s length.

Who has not heard that story?

It takes a packing of moss and mud,

a turn of cloth around the stump,

prayers in the darkest woods,

fine stitching of gold.

I lost my innocence to a man

who bound my mouth.

He called it love,

I called it severance.

I wed the next one

because he set me free

My hands grew back

like the lizard’s tail,

till I could write with fingers

shaped like stories,

and a mouth that could sing

with the phrases of birds.


A poet since a child (and no, she won’t post those here) Jane Yolen’s first real poetry sales happened after 113 rejections, which she posted on her bedroom wall. Since then she has had 10 books of adult poetry published as well as many poems for children published in collections, anthologies, as part of novels, a novel in verse (Finding Baba Yaga), as well as a memoir of her father’s family, who immigrated to America in the early 1900s (Ekaterinoslav). All in all, she has 370 books published, including novels, graphic novels, picture books, essays, nonfiction, two cookbooks, 10 music books, and won many awards, one of which set her good coat on fire.