For My Grandmother's Feet, Swollen Again

by Nickole Brown
Brown. Fanny Says. For My Grandmother's Feet Swollen Again
But for one pair of storebought boots, your two feet grew up barefoot with no idea you'd be bedridden, expecting for the last time at forty your seventh child. And your sixth— your youngest daughter—my mother, would play shoe shop with a string. It's her favorite story: how she laced your feet with pretend ribbon, pretend satin, pretend lace, how she tied a bow and said, How about this pair, Mama, would these do? I can't say I was there, but the half of me that was round and fully formed nested in the mouth of her ovary, waiting to be allowed down its long swan throat, and at times when I'm too sick to get out of bed, I curl the edge of a haunted sheet between my toes to feel a pair of imaginary slippers made by a little girl who waits for me at the edge of my bed. This memory— is it mine to have? My feet are three sizes too big, paddle feet, unpolished, feet that never bore the weight of child and might never will. But still, when my body fevers, when I am weak, there is something bittersweet threading the loneliest part of me, something that says, Now, it's time. I've made you new shoes. Stand up.