The Girl Without Arms


The Girl Without Arms is a figure in Japanese folklore—a young girl whose arms are lopped off by her father, and is left to die in the mountains. The father, at the behest of his evil wife—the girl’s stepmother—lures the girl into the mountains at the promise of attending a neighboring festival. This is only the beginning of the tale.

The poems of Brandon Shimoda’s The Girl Without Arms are birthed of the rainy shut-in pause between steps forward and back in a season of great floods. In successive and interlocked sequences, these poems grapple with a seemingly unbridgeable confusion—related to love, the impossibility of life outside of love, and the unbearableness of life within it—as a way to give shape to the dark weather that permeates our lives, so as not to drown at its coming.



about waking up among casualties
about the bitter chance of waking up among casualties
about waking up surrounded by wooden sprites in a crib
surrounded by eleven or twelve siblings
bled into sheets, lumped in the unbearable manner of hoecake
about bitter chance
is what a casualty is
to what
do I owe the distaste
What do I fancy the transfer of chance
From one who looks like me, and yet
Patterned after all the rest, slack beyond the state
You spoke directly into my ear
Pulled at the lonely yellow horses in the dirt
Halos of error within arcs of reaction
As the next thing—Take me to silver bow—Forget
The wall
Removed from the flood
Built back to the opposite ground
Releases naturally