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The Girl Without Hands

ISSUE:  Spring 2002


Sure enough, I hear the old
I told you so:
Now that you have a child—

now how do you like these stories
of the parents who unwittingly
bring their children to misery,

and need to be forgotten?
What saved the girl, if saved
she was, was her weeping. And not

just once; twice the tears falling
onto her hands, then the stumps
of her hands, washed them too clean

for the devil to go near,
so he threatened her piousness
through others. The miller,

the girl’s father, had no thought
of harming anyone, least of all
his daughter. What

can he have wished for but to feed
his family? When there is no grain,
a miller has nothing. Who in need

doesn’t hope for a lucky turn? Who
hasn’t once overlooked the glint
in a generous eye, or failed to

wonder what could this fellow want,
what’s standing behind my mill besides
the old apple tree?
He bargained it.

His daughter was what stood there
in the mill yard, sweeping.
Now when a weeping child speaks with more

authority than the parent, who has
made a grave mistake,
how can the man ashamed refuse?

Do as the devil says: lift your axe, Father—
God will protect me
. Afterward he begged her
not to walk off through the heather,

but in the end it is the parents who give in.
So how was it when the king
found her pulling down

the pear with her mouth—how was it
she said to him, she who had set out
away from home so resolute,

“All save God have deserted me”?
In time she too had a child she
bundled away, the boy

named Sorrowful, refugee
hidden in the house with the sign above
“Here everyone is free”.


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