Fall 2011 / Issue 90

Rachel Marie Patterson

 for Rosemary Kennedy, lobotomized age 23

Little Rosie rolling through the field,

half-dazed: when you spoke,

you spoke out of turn; you rode

in that boy’s car; you broke

out of the convent on a rope

of knotted sheets. You were not

your precious, golden brothers

nor placid, nor sweet. You roared

through that house; you hissed

at your mother. There was no place

for you, though they loved you—

there was no place for a woman

so dumb and so fierce. Desperation

led them to the doctor’s office,

desperation and the misplaced hope

of who you were meant to be: quiet and kind,

your brothers’ keeper, the oldest sister,

darling and upright. When the surgeon

pierced your skull, you were wide awake.

Know this: they did not know.

They did not mean to hurt you.

But then all you had was the dull snap

of those synapses breaking and

the boldness of your body, stripped

of language, stripped of reason,

still bulging awake each morning.

And all they had was the greatness

of your need. You were the first

tragedy, Rosie, but know

that you were not the last. Know

that your sisters huddled by,

that Eunice visited once a month

in her elaborate hats and her small,

latticed gloves to read you passages

from the Bible.