Phantom Limb

It still twinges

on cold nights,

and itches from imagined

insect bites.


Sometimes, I expect

to look and see it

still attached

to me.


I still pull blankets

over it at night,

and see its outline

beneath the cotton sheets.


I still feel

the blood coursing

through non-

existent capillaries.


I scratch

to find out

where it really is.

My nails find nothing


to scrabble at.

I am still counting

the hours

of separation:


How long

since amputa-

tion? It left

while I was asleep.


I am left

with echoes

of its departure.

It has preceded me


to the grave.

I am dying

by install-




(for Kristoffer Ian Villalino — the morning after, March 9, 1997)


it is too much for us, the fantasies,

the mirages founded on empty air,

the groping and walking in circles,

finding nothing solid in outstretched hands.

the purple tongue protruding through cracked lips

rasps the soft skin and rasps the soft skin off.

then boneless, the skeleton of lips

protests the passage through uncertain sands,

and reaches ends too tired to feel relief.

it is too much for us, the long dry coughs,

bringing nothing up but the salt of phlegms —

hands tearing at the throat to reach within —

we choke on hands that try to give us drink.


Alexander N. Tan Jr., M.D.


Alexander N. Tan Jr.,M.D. graduated from the University of the City of Manila (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila) with a Doctor of Medicine Degree. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy degree from Our Lady of Fatima University. He was a fellow at the 36th Dumaguete National Summer Writers’ Workshop (1997). His short stories and poems have been published in several literary journals throughout the Philippines and the United States. He is a member of MENSA Philippines. A practicing physician and physical therapist, he writes and lives in Mandaluyong City, Philippines.

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