Abecedarian For My Grandmother’s Missing Toe

“Amputated” was the word we were never to use, the truth
bent, buckled at the joint, like a nail the hammer’s talons
couldn’t coax from wood. We were told to say “removed,”
delicately, deferentially—the toe an unruly guest
escorted from the premises. Unlucky toe,
force-folded foot-fist. Mimi, you wanted it
gone—better surgery than “sneaks”—
high heels little coffins you wore with glee.
If only you could have banished your dying like that toe—
jutting jagged, driven diagonal—deemed expendable—
knotted bunch of nerves ripe for chopping.
Left-behind toe, second on the left foot, I loved you
more because of it, how calmly you sent it away—
no second thoughts.
Only you could pull off that vanishing accident.
Poor toe! burrowing under its neighbor, blind vole
quivering quiet as a maggot,
ragged root scrimshawed into submission, severed,
sawn off, smashed to pulp in a suede pump,
tamed by a tasteful taper—
until the doctor prescribed flats,
velcro straps: baby shoes. Then a walker, a wheelchair,
weightless as you were. O exiled toe, O phantom
X marking rot. O buried one, come back. Put on the shoes
you dreamt of to the end: slingbacks, stilettos,
zip-up boots—black leather, size eight and a half.