by Alan Shapiro
Feet he can’t lift, feet padding with a toddler’s half-
step, sh-sh-sh, down the carpeted hall, feet swollen,
purple, with miniscule white cracks between the toes,
along the sides, the heel, sore feet he’s asking me,
if it’s, you know, no bother, will I rub with cream?
dry feet I gingerly cup and lift into my lap,
feet of the stockyard, feet of the slaughterhouse, factory,
showroom floor, my fingers working the moisturizer
down into the parched soles, the rinds of calluses,
over the bunched skin rough as braille above the heel bone,
the instep whitening under the pressure of my touch,
then darkening again, whitening then darkening,
lifted and let down, feet of the love bed, feet of we had
a few good years before the war, before you children,
feet of I never cheated on her, I never beat her,
what the hell else does she want? First one and then the other,
cupped in my hand, cupped even as I let them down
so slowly that the weight, the gravity, the pulling
from the earth’s core for a moment’s mine, not theirs, then theirs
again, half-stepping sh-sh-sh down the carpeted hall.
"Feet" by Alan Shapiro, from THE DEAD ALIVE AND BUSY by Alan Shapiro, copyright © 2000 University of Chicago Press. Used by permission of University of Chicago Press.