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,
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.