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the girl without hands

dana blatte

cw: references to bodily harm

In a fairytale, there is order: father money dark forgiveness.
First, father mutilates daughter in the name of wealth.

The apple tree stands guard, warbling fruit shriveled down
to their cores. The father cuts the wound

like a tree, counting the rings of her marrow.
While he works, the daughter worships God, not the brute

strength of the man borrowing her obedience. Her blood
runs clear, burnished as sap. After he takes her hands, she cleans

herself thin—still sinless—yet the devil does not care
who is to blame. Only that her hands stay

dirty. She can never be good. Like the apple tree
is good: it stones the father with fruit and gifts,

the girl a seed, a story: father, foe—interchangeable.
In a fairytale, the girl is always undeserving. Even pretty

when she’s running. The father weeps for his blood to remember
his false love. But into the woods she goes, as all good

girls do, and from the trees she reaps obedience: the fruit
jewels into her lap, her mouth, her throat, and all else

that is clean. It lasts until a doe forgets its tongue, its eyes,
and wanders home in stilted steps. Out of piety, its speech

blooms. The girl reclaims her limbs, and her father rears
another tree, another good girl without hands. His daughter

counts the rings of his strength, the narrow of his bones.
While she works, his blood finds a way out. The wounds,

stories, all of them as runny as sap, and the apple tree
does not stop her from sinning. Forgiveness is always last.

Dana Blatte is a high school junior from Massachusetts. Her work is published or forthcoming in Fractured Lit, Rust + Moth, Gone Lawn, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and more, and has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and the Pulitzer Center, among others. Find her hyping up her friends on Twitter @infflorescence.

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