In response to my most recent rant

About the politics of my state

And the new governor who plans, among

Numerous other evils, to save money

By denying dialysis to those on Medicaid,

To establish “right to work zones” where

Workers can be paid whatever the bosses want,

To cut funding by half to universities

Where people might be educated

To be wary of folks like him,

My friend writes

Of walking along the coast admiring

The cypress trees and the spring blossoms emerging

And the hawks soaring gracefully

And I accept how she is chiding me

To smell the roses and all of that

Type of distraction that makes life

Bearable. But I just can’t.

The mean-hearted pronunciation

That says money

Is the common denominator

Strikes the match to the gasoline.




We pull the clogged sand point and struggle

To pound in another. Our friend, the well-guy worries

I could lose my license but he helps us

Because he knows what it costs to live here. We’re ignoring

The impositions of the EPA and zoning regulations

That mean nothing to a system that’s lasted a century

And we confess it’s also about money. Twelve grand

To drill a well for water not as good as this one,

Ruddy with iron that can uphold what’s left of our lifetimes.


The well is uphill of the septic field though if you measure

Like an inspector would, well…this isn’t our only short cut;

The grey water from the sink and washer

That drains to an illicit catch basin dug in the 1870’s.

The electric we haven’t got to yet, still knob and tube.

The dozens of runarounds we take, following the leads

Of all the farmers that preceded us. Ingenious and as the

Suburbs march uniformly in our direction, illegal or so

Uncommon the only response is a shrug.     .

At some point, you have to pit

The good against the perfect

If you don’t want to go broke.

Our maxim, if it ain’t, don’t

Fix it. Which goes for most everything now.





His first sky dive,

Free falling five thousand feet

Over St.Martins. He’s grinning,

Head over heels, arms outstretched

Like angel wings. He’s seventeen,

His life a vast skyscape

Of possibility. His grandfather queries

For fun? He frowns. At that age or a little older,

He too fell from the sky,

Shot down over Czechoslovakia

To hang in a tree until the Germans

Cut him down and took him to the camp

To starve. He shakes his head. For fun?

The plane was burning when they bailed.

This boy with his foolish antics.

Life is serious, not to be mocked.

The boy shrugs. It was fun.





The podiatrist operates on your big toe

Removing the nail with what looks like

A pliers and then cauterizing the oozing bed

With caustic oil. He says in a week or so

You should be able to walk without

Agony. He tells you walking

Is essential to health. His parents were

Holocaust survivors. The day they walked

Out of the abandoned barracks.

Living skeletons, their feet

Wrapped in rags, what a day that was!

How they walked to the D.P. camps, walked

On ship decks, walked to the immense fortune

Of a son educated

To fix feet like yours. So walk!


Your toe, page of erasure,

A fat white grub. Underneath

It’s all gore like the untold stories

Of the podiatrist’s mother and father.

He has conjured from pictures what they suffered.

Suffering, he contends, must be endured

To heal. You can’t bear

Weight on that foot yet. His eyeglasses

Glitter like frozen ponds

Over which the world must creep

Tentatively, step by cautious step.


Next week, you will walk

Into his surgery to expose

Tenderness. An unshelled

Toe. He’s compelled to expunge

The carapaces his parents cowered under,

Tongues stuck to hard palates,

Roofs iced over,

Footprints bloodying the snow.


Science of the foot. Mechanics

Of walking. How a person is saved,

Escape accomplished.

A lowly procession of ingrown nails, bunions,

Plantar warts and fallen arches.

No foot, no horse, he says.


They walked from the boxcars

To be judged. The lame, the toddlers

Shunted to the ovens. His parents

Walked, they slaved in the quarries

Hauling baskets of stones. He’s seen

The documentaries. His parents:

Their faces drawn and tight like

People whose feet hurt.


This good son soaks in remembrance,

Unbandaging your foot,

Which has improved. The profession he chose:

Foot doctor, seems vaguely comic.

Five little piggies crammed

In pointed spikes

The way they were jammed

In the ghettos or hiding

In an annex above the factory they owned

Before declared personas non grata,

People sewn with yellow stars.

He owns this history. Every patient

Whose foot he holds in accomplished hands

Will recollect it with

Every perfected stride.





One meager tree at the gated entrance

Wears a shield of bloody flowers.

Each unit designed for conformity.

Beige drapes so no window could smirk

With accusations the way Simon accosts

Evelyn at the pool, her objections to his

Cigarettes, or Martha indignant that two

Granddaughters sunbathe on the balcony

Where all the old men can leer.

They golf, play tennis, swim laps, run

Around a cinder track, lift weights,

Join groups: bridge, chess, mah jong

Or craft with fabric, clay or paints.

The sun beats its endless drum

Over the sprinkled acres. They retreat

To air conditioned rooms where flat screens

Dominate the shrinking days.

Every so often somebody dies

And somebody else moves in.




Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including  Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and “Ribcage” from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Colby is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

Visit her online at www.joancolby.com or on Twitter @poetjm.