When Jillian Weise wrote The Amputee’s Guide to Sex, it was with the intention of changing the conversation around disability; essentially, she was tired of seeing "cripples" portrayed as asexual characters. The collection that resulted is a powerful lesson in desire, the body, pain, and possession.
These poems interrogate medical language and history, imagine Mona Lisa in a wheelchair, rewrite Elizabeth Bishop’s poem "In the Waiting Room," address a lover’s arsonist ex-girlfriend, and show the prosthesis as the object of male curiosity and lust. Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called the book a “charged and daring debut” and described Jillian Weise as an "agile and powerful poet . . . speaking boldly and compassionately about a little-discussed subject that becomes universal in her careful hands."
In the years since its first publication, our culture continues to grapple with questions limned in this collection. In a new introduction, Weise revisits and recontextualizes her work, revealing its urgency to our present moment. What are the challenges of speaking "for" a community? How to resist the institutionalization of ableist paradigms? How are atypical bodies silenced? Where do our corporeal selves intersect with our technologies?
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I. Removal of the Prosthetic
Wait for partner to exit room, or initiate their exit by requested a favor. For example, “Could you check the front door? I can’t remember if I locked it.” Wait for shadows to stand still, then quick, under the covers, remove the prosthetic. Let it slip beneath the bed, under clothes, behind a door.
To create an uninhibited environment for your partner, track their hands like game pieces on a board. For leg amputees, keep arms on upper body. For arm amputees, keep arms on lower body. Engage with like limbs. Keep half-limbs out of reach. Your goal is to achieve a false harmony with their body.
Mobility is key. If they see the half-limb then they become inhibited, nervous. They think: “Will it hurt like this? Would she tell me if it did?” Mobility shows confidence. Think for two people. Know where your limbs are at all times; know where your partner’s limbs are at all times.