Somewhere between a prose poem and flash fiction, please enjoy To My Friend with Diabetes, On Losing Her Foot. Just like my friend, the poem is quirky, uplifting, and full of heart.
To my friend with diabetes, on losing her foot
You walk sixty-seven years while childhood diabetes, against your iron will, poisons your peripheral nerves with sugar, and the muscles of your feet, starved of circulation, gradually dissolve.
Your toes gnarl and curl backward at wild angles, as if aspiring to adorn gargoyles. (You’ve always had a dragon-and-knight heart.) Unruly tendons draw themselves into bows, aiming toes in every direction.
The doctor calls nerve death a blessing: unmuffled shrieks of twisting bones, no one could stand. But nerve death isn’t sudden, like cremation; electric signals climb your calves like flames.
First, you walk in special shoes; then, titanium braces, laced to your knees. Then, as orthotic specialists bite their fingernails, you cut holes in shoe leather with razors, because you have places no one can touch.
A medical resident offers custom replacements: braces with art printed on the back of your calves. You imagine the black-on-black silhouette of an animal whose feet don’t have to touch the ground. You imagine a city to save. You say, “Batman.”
Black on black is more than a side-eye at fate. You’re making an all-season fashion statement: black shirts, black knee socks, elastic waists in cropped black pants to hold insulin pumps and air your knees.
(Your nerves still crackle like static.)
The new braces arrive, featuring 1950s comic-book Batman—blue cape and yellow belt, swinging a punch and yelling “Bam!” because nothing turns out as we anticipate. At the checkout line in the grocery store, you become popular among small children…
Thank you to Hektoen International for publishing “To My Friend.” This was the first piece of my creative writing accepted for publication, ever, and by coincidence, the acceptance arrived on the night before my friend went into surgery. All good news–my friend came out of surgery and continues to heal.