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Poetry and Medicine
June 15, 2011

Ignacio’s Foot

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

Author Affiliation: Department of Family Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington DC (susan.okie@verizon.net).

JAMA. 2011;305(23):2386. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.655

I know this foot, this sturdy stump
that ends mid-instep in a callused knob,
its horny yellow skin slammed with each step
against the sole of your salted working boot.
I remember the toes that turned dusky
like summer plums, the innocent-looking wound
sending bacteria to consume your flesh.
On your x-rays, shadows of infection
crept up the bones, till I sent you
by taxi to the hospital, where a surgeon
lopped off the darkened, rotting half.
Today you greet me with your toothless smile,
accept my pills, read me your daily numbers—
high-water marks of sugar in the blood.
Homeless until your daughter took you in,
you limp beside your grandchild to the bus,
clean the house, scrape dollar bills together
to pay your fare. You unswaddle the stump
you’ve wrapped up like an infant, and present it
for my inspection. Look, you say , perfecto!
Next time you see me here,
I will walk in with a woman on my arm.