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.