by Jennifer Wheelock


She was making one of her tiny meatloaves
to take to a hospitalized church friend.
“Her toe died, and they had to
remove it.”

How does
a toe die?

“I don’t know, but hers up
and did. So I’m taking her
a tiny meatloaf. ”

At this, I imagine
a meatloaf in the shape
of a big toe.


She and Dad were at Hardee’s
having a charbroiled. “I just
had a corn cut off the bottom
of my foot. We felt
like a burger.”


“My feet burn like hot coals.
I can barely walk on them.”
I hold the phone away
from my ear. “Sorry
about the pounding noise.
I’m tenderizing
flank steak.”


She shows me a sore on her ankle
swollen twice its normal size.
Does it hurt? “Yes, it’s awful
sore. Kept me up all night.
By the way, for dinner
we’re having shortribs.”


I watch her shuffle about
the kitchen, hands shaking,
wrists barely holding up
against the weight
of a pot of potatoes.
This once-farm girl
who milked the cows,
their cloven hoofs
so essential to making milk,
so prone to going lame.