The Bloody Foot

          We feel bad for the bloody foot. It can’t take care of itself. It’s been rubbed the wrong way. And rubbed. And rubbed until wound opens upon wound, 

          a mouth.

          We look into

          its distant throat.

          A red version of ourselves and shiver.

          We tut it, we tut tut it. We air it. We kiss it with gauzy, sterile lips.

          But it only gets worse. Day by day we aren’t good enough.

          When the foot, bumped against a chair leg, cries out in banshee pain we decide we must call in the visiting nurse to care for and evaluate our wound baby.

          The nurse says, oh.

          The nurse says, bad.

          What have you done? You’ve been using the wrong type of bandage, he says, you’ve been making it worse.

          The pain must be managed.

          But that takes medication, and the bloody foot doesn’t do well with medication. We say no, can’t do that to our little baby. We say yes, we must. We say no, we say yes. We side with yes.

          All along, we tut tut. And more tut tut. Our poor baby. Our poor bloody. The foot used to be so smooth

          so arched

          so concealed

          so cupped

          so achingly useful, but no more.

          We loved that foot.

          We mean, we love that foot. We must stay in the present, but wounds are deep. Grief confuses verbs.

          Then the bloody foot breaks free and runs away into the woods.

          How? we ask. Why

          We don’t know. It must’ve been a reaction to the medication. Has to be.

          The foot is loose and alone in the deep and dark forest of fisher cats and coyotes. Our bloody foot will attract death with its blood. And it can’t hop that good.

          Why is this happening? Why us? We want it all to go back.

          We send out the men to hunt for the bloody foot in the forest. Be gentle, we say. Be thorough. Our life is in your hands. Don’t fuck up, we say.

          Then we wait. We pick our fingers. We drink. We don’t sleep by trying to sleep.

          Hours pass and the night sneaks past us.

          But only some of the men return. Their faces: terser than the usual terse.

          Where’s the foot? we ask. Where’s the rest of you?

          The men don’t say anything at first, then:

          “We have bad news.”

          “We found the foot. The foot ran. We chased the bloody foot. The foot turned on us. The foot took a big bite out of Bill. He’s in the hospital now. His arm looks like ham. Sam jumped in. But the foot bit him too. Sam didn’t make it.”

          We must call the police. Everyone will know soon enough. We must take responsibility. It’s up to us. It’s time to act, but all we can think about is the woods. They’ve grown still. Leaves obscure.

JEFFERSON NAVICKYwas born in Chicago, and grew up in Southeastern Ohio. He is the author of The Book of Transparencies, The Paper Coast, and the chapbooks Uses of a Library and Map of the Second Person. His work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Electric Literature, Hobart, Tarpaulin Sky, and Fairy Tale Review. He is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College.