Feet

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Friends, mine are ugly feet:
the body’s common wreckage
stuffed into boots.  The second toe
on the left foot’s crooked
enough that when a child
asks, “what’s that?” of it,
(the left more haywire than the right)
I can without flinch or fear of doubt lie
that a cow stepped on it
which maybe makes them fear cows
for which I repent in love
as I am with those philosophical beasts
who would never smash my feet
nor sneer at them
the way my mother does:
“We always bought you good shoes, honey,”
she says, “You can’t blame us
for those things,” and for this
and other reasons
I have never indulged in the pleasure
of flip-flops shy or ashamed
digging my toes like ten tiny ostriches into the sand
at the beach with friends
who I’m not sure love me
though I don’t think Tina loved me—
she liked me, I think—but said
to me, as we sat on lawn chairs
beside a pool where I lifeguarded and was meticulous
at obscuring from view with a book or towel
my screwy friends,
You have pretty feet,
in that gaudy, cement–mixer, Levittown accent
that sends all the lemurs scaling my ribcage to see
and she actually had pretty feet
and so I took this as a kindness incomparable and probably
fell a little bit in love with her for that afternoon
with the weird white streak in her hair
and her machinegun chatter and probably her gum snapping
and so slid my feet from beneath my Powerman and Iron Fist comic book
into the sun for which they acted like plants opening their tiny mouths
to the food hurtling to them through the solar system
and like plants you could watch them almost smile,
almost say thank you, you could watch them
turn colors, and be, almost, emboldened,
as much as some snaggletoothed feet can be emboldened,
and Tina witnessed none of this
because she was probably digging in her purse
or talking about that hottie on The Real World
or yelling at some friend’s little sister to put her ass in her trunks
or pouring the crumbs of her Fritos into her thrown open mouth,
but do you really think I’m talking to you about my fucking feet?
Of course she’s dead: Tina was her name, of leukemia: so I heard—
why else would I try sadly to make music of her unremarkable kindness?
I am trying, I think, to forgive myself
for something I don’t know what.
But what I do know is that I love the moment when the poet says
I am trying to do this
or I am trying to do that.
Sometimes it’s a horseshit trick. But sometimes
it’s a way by which the poet says
I wish I could tell you,
truly, of the little factory
in my head: the smokestacks
chuffing, the dandelions
and purslane and willows of sweet clover
prying through the blacktop.
I wish I could tell you
how inside is the steady mumble and clank of machines.
But mostly I wish I could tell you of the footsteps I hear,
more than I can ever count,
all of whose gaits I can discern by listening, closely.
Which promptly disappear
after being lodged again,
here, where we started, in the factory
where loss makes all things
beautiful grow.

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