Holy Thursday Pop-Up Foot Clinic

We wash feet on the New Haven Green,
feet that need deep callouses,
that walk in wet socks after spates of rain.
If you listen while two feet soak, 
maybe you come to know the daily movements
of a woman named D.,
whose feet drag from the warming center 
into winter dawns to rest in the bus shelter
until the library opens at 10,
who hurries to the seat by the window
in the sci-fi/fantasy reading room,
and waits for her ankles to hinge and tilt
with A Wrinkle in Time,
turning gravity into a Mrs. Whatsit lullaby.

On Sundays and all public holidays,
when the library is closed and it’s too cold to sit outside,
she stands on sleek sidewalks as long as it takes
to panhandle enough bus fare to the Post Road Mall, 
where recliners line the promenade to the shops,
and the security guard who works Sundays and holidays
looks the other way, because he used to nap here too.

When the warming centers close for the season, 
she steps back into the night-shift shuffle:
train station ‘til they close for cleaning at 1 a.m.,
ER waiting room, if they let her stay, 
until the station reopens at 4.

You towel off her feet and ask the podiatry nurse
To check for neuropathy.
You imagine her looping paths,
and you wish you could give her a labyrinth:
a spiral garden with a home all her own in the center.
But you let the labyrinth wish pass and hand her a pair of socks.

On your drive home, you let the radio take you away
from the harsh maze she walks
and hope she sees the Milky Way tilting tonight.

Ashley Makar works with refugees in Connecticut. She does community outreach for IRIS--Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, in New Haven. She has an e-book of essays, You Were Strangers: Dispatches from Exile. Ashley has published essays in Tablet, The Birmingham News, The Struggle Continues (the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute weblog), Religion Dispatches, and The New Haven Register.