Carolyn Kizer: “Jill’s Toes”


Jill’s Toes

When you were born
You had an extra little toe
Nestled against the others
Like a kernel of sweet corn
In a short row.
As would any mother
I adored your little toes.
But the doctor warned
That all your life
You would have to go
In special shoes
At great expense.
So pensively I watched him
Twist off the little toes,
A moment’s pain
To make you normal
Like everyone else.
So of course
You grew up to be an artist.
So much for uniformity
That cannot be imposed
The ghosts of those little toes
Printed invisibly
On each work you compose,
Despite the agency of doctors
Despite the urgency of mothers
And that Procrustean twist
To save the cost of shoes.

Carolyn Kizer (1925-2014) was a founding editor of Poetry Northwest. Her books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Yin: New Poems (1984), Pro Femina (2000) as well as the retrospective Cool, Calm, and Collected: Poems 1960-2000 (2001). “Jill’s Toes” was her last published poem, and appeared in the spring 2011 “Kizer Tribute” issue.

photo credit: Ark in Time via photopin cc