Monica Rentfrow


Rethinking Repair is a semi-autobiographical collection of serious and humorous poetic works that explores effects a body with dwarfism has had on one individual. Most of the poems lean on a precise moment when dwarfism—a rare medical condition present at birth—directly has influenced the emotion or outcome of a situation. Conversely, I illuminate moments when dwarfism has had absolutely no direct influence on my experiences; I do this to counterbalance the possible perception or belief that all the experiences in my life center on dwarfism. Indeed many poems are simple displays of managing the "repair" of familial and everyday stresses. In this way, the collection serves as an example of an unusual life experience. Because it focuses on the realities and exigencies of living with dwarfism, this narrative on repair is a crucial addition to the discourse of diversity studies. More specifically, this collection will further the discourse of dwarfism in literature. The poems collected in Rethinking Repair are organized in three sections—each of which contains poems that center on the concept of repair to the body, the family, and the mitigation of everyday stresses.

Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia Congenita

Listen to the audio version read by Melissa Cotter.

I don't really like babies
but the young SEDs get me
every time
the way they stagger
with limbs they may never grow into
on hips that contain not an ounce
of bone
chattering in high octaves
and pushing themselves back up
from the floor
chasing others twice their size
short-cutting under tables with no need
to duck head

Once, sitting on the side
of a crowd, I saw a girl of three,
very small,
padding about, darting from one
side to the other, weaving through legs
like corn stalks
while parents sat by
seemingly cooler than the cucumber
on my lunch plate
and I just about pulled a superhero stunt
before I realized I did just the same
at her age

* * *

The Bone Room

Listen to the audio version read by Melissa Cotter.

My doctor's secretary walks
to the door of The Bone
Room, turns a key in
an old metal lock. Only
a teenager, I do not know
what Laura is offering me.

I am admitted to a room
full of bone bits and wholes
on thin wooden shelves,
in cabinets behind dusty
glass doors. Missing bodies' hands,
joints, clubfeet, a pelvis, a cranium
enlarged from achondroplasia.
It is like a history
of my ancestors, my people.
I look but do not touch.

I turn around
and there it is: a whole
skeleton, complete with scoliosis.
Missing eyes, missing spirit—
it hangs in its case.
My feet grow roots
and my ears fold in
on themselves as Laura
recites facts, smiling.
It was such a structure
that if my skin and muscle were to fall
away it would be me
standing forever in a glass display.
I could be a sacrifice to science.

* * *

Short Rules

Listen to the audio version read by Melissa Cotter.

short hand
short stories
short of the mark

short list
short supply
short a bit on cash

short coming
short circuit
short-distance calling

short stop
short run
short of breath

short cut
short bus
shortest path A to B

short skirt
short shorts
short-term relationship

short while
short lived
short of a miracle

* * *


Monica Rentfrow died from intubation complications before surgery in 2014. The above poems were submitted by William Palmer, professor emeritus of English at Alma College, with whom she once studied. Dr. Palmer was asked by the Rentfrow family to promote Rethinking Repair. The poems are part of Rentfrow's MA thesis from the University of Nebraska during which time she worked with Ted Kooser and other accomplished poets. None of the poems have been previously published.