Today, I washed your tiny feet in the kitchen sink,
the left one cupped in my hand like a closed mussel shell.
I cleaned in between your pebble toes,
around your calloused heel, hardened
from two years of climbing patio chairs
and dancing on linoleum.
The layers of grime from a backyard afternoon
peeled away as if I were an archeologist
excavating an ancient piece of earthenware.
Someday, you will spend long hours in strappy sandals,
leather pumps, inhuman heels. For now, you’re free
to kick off your black Mary Janes and white lace-topped
socks in the middle of church, on this day,
three days before Easter, while we listen
to Peter’s eternal objection—
Lord, You shall never wash my feet!—
and twelve men sit, barefoot and awkward,
in folding chairs lined up in front of the altar.
The feet are beige, olive, and brown.
They spend their days in wingtips, on forklifts,
or protruding from underneath a car.
One by one, the priest bends to wash
each pair of feet, as he does every year on this day,
in imitation of Christ.
You climb up on the pew and pad along barefoot, your footsteps
echoing and hollow. You step onto the armrest and teeter
over the edge. I navigate knees and purses and grab you,
just before you fall, as the priest dries each foot with a towel,
leans forward, kisses them.
Sarah DeCorla-Souza’s poetry has also appeared in Innisfree, JMWW, Conte, Visions International, Angel Face, and Imitation Fruit. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.