O toes pinky and big!
O all in between and the sore spot
just below the space between the two middle digits.
O ball and arch, parched with reptile dryness
that beseeches to be scratched, to be peeled
though it is not to be reached.
O my smashed leg
once I took you for granted:
your heel and knee could swing or pivot close in and up
or stay as far away as you pleased.
Your hips and thighs would move with someone
else’s rhythm against shoulders in bed
pump water while crossing a pool or a pond
hurry down stairs when running late
catch up when running behind.
Now I do not know you anymore.
We are separated by the hinge of my groin that cannot
will not refuses to release in order to reach you —
eaten alive by fear of popping
the joint, dislocating the knee, cracking the femur.
It’s been months. Months! You are almost
not a part of me anymore: separate, other, alien, as I am
from every other part of my body — except my hands.
O my hands
You have remained
within sight and reach, steadfast and loyal
with a pen and a paintbrush and a knife fork and spoon.
Is it worse to break a hand or a foot? An arm or a leg?
A nose or a kneecap? Would I rather be
blind or deaf? Or mute, or not able to smell or lose
All sense of touch, or tongue?
And my other leg, O!
I dare not forget you. I sing praises to my blessedly utilitarian
hands but you, you too, have stood by me.
You have been a girl scout a seraph a pillar
a tree trunk holding me up for months with your oneness
as your mate hung: a sheet blowing on a clothesline, a kite waffling in a tree,
a side of beef punctured by a hook in a butcher’s window.
You’ve given me no trouble, no trouble at all
standing by mutely moving in support, asking nothing. Can I repay you?
Your partner still aches everywhere, the ache does not subside,
the ache travels. The ache changes its nature yet sustains
in all phases of recovery especially
in the knee
O knee: You are a mess; how can I praise you?
But I must for I need you
to heal; perhaps you have endured the most
battering, the hardest brunt. It’s you who have taken
a steadfast beating for the whole team —
My left foot
heel, arch, toes, entire hoof, I am now told
I can put you down. You can bear weight,
though you still remain
so far away. Before this we were intimate and I assert:
We Will Be Again: I will bend down to slip sock toes over your toes.
I will bring you to rest on my opposite knee.
I will relieve your itch, polish with a pumice stone
your calluses, admire from on high the perfection of a newly
lacquered pedicure, slip you in and out of boots and shoes
and slippers and sneakers and sandals and pumps and mules
and heels and heels and heels and heels.
O heels! Worn with stockings and a seam running up the back of calves and thighs!
Lean toward you with no longer a thought for
severing that hip, busting that knee, cleaving that femur once, then again.
Christy Brown had only you, and Daniel
Day Lewis showed us how you painted and wrote
with yourself, as only a being in the most compromised
of situations, the most cramped, crippled, incapacitated
yet graced with driven mystic vision could do: Jean-Dominique Bauby
alphabet winking his story and state; Helen Keller who
held us in thrall in grade school as we imagined her inner
darkness and light; FDR who led the country for goodness sakes
with no legs. Quietly we wonder: would we be that able?
That noble, brave, resourceful? Secretly we fear we’d be
less than that, buckling instead
to shock and self pity. Privately we know we’d be all
too human: irritated, irritable, irritating, and
O, I long to be ordinary once again.
Pamela Gordon lives in the Bronx, NY, where she is a writer and a high school instructional coach. Her publications include salon.com; Poets & Writers; New Times; More; and The New York Times.