I’ve managed to dream my way
back to that florescent lit house
of denial, house of oxford
with good support. See me there,
five years old, near the Formica
counter, begging for Mary Janes.
And here, pouting in a corner chair
at twelve, over a pair of brown suede
clogs. My nemesis, that salesman
in the ill-fitting suit. Notice how
he straddles his slant-board seat
almost obscenely, my slender
teenaged toes pointing directly
to his crotch. He’s merely a footman
but with power to declare Not
for you and Maybe next year. (Liar.)
Sorry, Princess, no sexy glass sling backs
for handicapped girls today.
I turn to my father who's here
to press his thumb above my big toe.
He watches, grim faced, as dozens of me
pace the colorless rug, my awful walk
and the shoes I so don’t want
reflected in every mirror on the wall.
* * *
With the ease of a salesman
she slips my shoe on nightly,
heel pressing her palm.
The brace, cool metal,
buckled at my ankle and knee.
The sales pitch, I could say with her:
Everybody’s got something.
People wear glasses.
Ann Ratshin’s daughter caught polio
swimming in a lake upstate.
In the dark I play with words.
Palsy, a tall pansy. Polio,
ring-o-leavio on pogo sticks.
When I move my foot, the quilt
rips a bit. When I feel it itch
I think I must be healing.
* * *
The child I was dreamed my hands
into sisters. Left beautiful in her grace,
Right, Clumsy-Girl, with lesser jobs.
Run the sponge down Grace's arm
after she's soaped and scrubbed
the rest of the body. Hold one end
of the sneaker lace while she makes
the other a loop. Today, I want
to think I learned patience from this.
And compassion, both how to give it
and how to take it in. Maybe the damage
at my birth made something lovely of me.
Don't you have to break a geode
before it has facets, before you get
that jagged beauty and shine?