Foot Reading – Haibun
this is not a kindness
a duty, or a religious metaphor
it is inherent
I fill two basins, rising steam dampens my face, add a few squirts of green, stray bubbles pop against the kitchen window. I ask you to dip a toe, you nod approval, lift the lead weight of your feet, they drop like lumps of land breaking free of the cliffs and falling into sea, sink beneath the surface. Your face relaxes.
blackbirds drop from tree
searching for breakfast leftovers
find nothing but bugs
Every Sunday night (whether I needed it or not, we laugh) you ran my bath, poured in Matey for bubble mohawks, tossed in multi-coloured Tupperware. After being swaddled in cotton, I’d run downstairs and would sit on your knee, in the fireside chair, while you dried my hair and between each individual toe, tickled my feet. Compare the single freckle we both have on our right little piggy.
sky turns from orange to red
pink and purple as dusk descends
swifts swoop in circles
Now, your toes sufficiently wrinkled, callouses waxy white, I ease each foot out, wrap them in the towel. Deformed feet, big toes bunioned, corns on phalanges; the result of too many dances in stiletto heeled winkle pickers. The scissors can cut anything, according to your QVC god, and I have tested this by gliding through a tin of ham.
baby mice, transparent
pink wrinkles, jump from nest
into jack russell’s teeth
In turn, I take these to both parents’ feet. You have shared fifty-three years and your fungal infections, with each other. Twenty toenails in shades of banana mousse, cream cake and custard, ribbed like palm trees or the shells on the beach.
found in pocket
one heart-shaped stone, polished
smooth by your thumb
I remember going to the Mournes each Easter Monday, to skim for smicks in the Shimna, then later after a picnic of egg and onion sandwiches, tea and biscuits, I would paddle in the Irish Sea, look for razor shells, driftwood, mermaids’ purses. Sitting in the boot of the Austin Allegro while you would dry my feet. Carefully pulling the towel between my toes to remove every grain of sand.
-Gaynor Kane ( poem first appeared in The North)
I watch the blanket breathe,
hope it will never stop.
white, cellular, keeping warm,
the one I love, so vehemently.
scares me, this intensity of feeling,
that never stops,
and continues when the blanket lays quiet……
People looked on in wonder, impatiently said
I really don’t know what goes on in that head!
Sometimes so patronising, what can you say?
How on earth do you guess where he is today
Open your eyes you ignorant jerk
Sit quiet a while, it’s hardly work
To still your mind, quell your tongue
He can hear your comments, they stung.
Your back to him, he’s shaking his head
Heard every damned word that you said
Yes, he wanders, him it frustrates
In his head thoughts like spinning plates
Not a juggler, a circus clown sometimes they crash
Fall to the ground, to many shards smash
Don’t you think he’d say if he could?
Doesn’t want this, he ISN’T a fool
So sitting quietly, happy by your side
We talk of things you’d always hide
Subjects varied that you have to share
Your loves, passions, compelled to air
Instead of feeling like you’ve nothing to say
I try to savour your words each day
Knowing soon that this chance will end
When your man in black returns, on you to tend
You know what’s happening you aren’t dense
Can’t they just apply some common sense?
Shaking your head you roll your eyes
Patience lost, listening to sighs
You know they are tired, but you are too
You’ve fought so long, they have no clue
Tenacity making you fight till you’ve won
That’s when you’re ready for the setting sun
Time to leave the world mortals see
Through the door you’re going to be
Talking, laughing and chatting a while
In your voice I hear your sparkling smile
Tell me ‘she’s here ‘ and ‘is it okay to go?’
I have to say yes because I know
You’re happy to see it’s your beloved mother
The fight, battle given up for no other
Knew she was coming for you long before
Take her hand, go through the open door
Gently you lie there closing your eyes
All worries gone, said the goodbyes
I know should I need you where to look
Said you’d be down by the babbling brook
I’d only to call if I didn’t manage to see
And like always and forever you’d appear to me.
You said, “This isn’t my world,” and then
You shook your head.
That look, deep
In your distant eyes, said
Everything that needed
To be said. And, your modesty,
In that moment of clarity,
More respect than my
Inclination might have granted,
Because you said, “I really don’t
Know what I’m talking about. This isn’t my world…No,
It’s not my time.”
But I am moved to want to somehow
Merge your world with mine.
Only One Heart
We are symmetrical
Beings – those of us who can call
To live in a body
We have these
Two beautiful ears
With which to hear
Our creator’s call, and eyes to see,
And arms and legs and feet.
Though we have but one
Heart with which to live
And spend it how we choose: to take, or give.