A few moments up from the basement room I'm cleaning out this weekend, breathing not easily from the dust. But in my hand, a salvaged poem I wrote in 1997.
Eleven years ago. A partially/somewhat different me. (Not sure of the last time I even wrote a poem... oh yes, a poetry workshop shortly after Katrina. About shoes.) I'm resisting the urge to edit.
In the wooded suburb of
Larkspur, the Arch Street stairs
lead from Magnolia to Walnut Avenue.
Walnut swings around
the hill and, where the madrones
used to stand tall and the oaks still
do, becomes Palm Drive. So Arch
becomes Palm. We moved out of
the city to Larkspur when I was
ten and stood merely four feet tall.
Run in our family, thick ankles,
stubby toes. “Our feet are not...
pretty,” we say. Russian-Jewish
peasant feet. In time, I finally
grew another foot. Five foot two.
In the darkness of my adolescence
on Walnut Avenue I peeled the
skin off my feet, strip after painful
strip. Wallflower, nut, walnut.
Arch to Walnut, Walnut to Palm, a
strange passing; three-card monty,
slight-of-hand. Unable to ever let
a scab alone, peeling off my feet.
and fancy-free I roamed and
flirted through my twenties,
fluttering surfaces, touching down
but, footless, unable to land.
Taped on my office wall curls my
resolve from two years ago: Grow
feet. Years of wanna-be, fake it till
you make it, fly off the cliff, who
cares if there’s water below. “My
name is Ericka, and I’m a
recovering bullshit artist.” Grow
feet, I told myself, imagining it a
grim task — thick feet, dour feet,
feet to hold me down, keep me
earthbound. Grow up, grow
down, grow feet.
In July I began weeks of careful
nail cultivation, calluses and dried
skin smoothed away with pumice,
stone from Pele, Hawaiian fire
goddess. I’m past peeling. My
nails grow long and strong. How
is this? So many years hating my
feet. Am I happy?
Unblemished feet, and at the tips,
my pink surprise, dessert. Today
I’ve painted my toenails pink, the
color of little girl parties, swirly
dresses with shorts underneath so
we can play and dance. Frosting
and petit fours. Pretty please with
sugar on top. Party toes. I clasp
myself, arch to palm. My feet are
two years old today, and it’s their
party. We’re having cake and tea.
— Ericka Lutz, 1997