Not the piranha pedicure
of London where little fish
nibble our tough callouses
or the luxurious soakings
in hot, gardenia-scented
water in an American salon,
instead in a cobbled alley
in Augsburg, away from cafés
in Fuggersplatz, a sign says
NAILS so I follow it to an open
door where a young Vietnamese
woman in very short shorts and
a black and white baseball cap
with writing I don’t understand
even though it is supposedly
English, leads me up a staircase
to an empty area except for two
gray chairs and says sit, then
brings a wooden bucket of tepid
water and sits on the other chair
while she slides the bucket
in front of me and indicates
that I should submerge my feet
As she arranges my softened soles
on a cushion between her legs, we
hesitantly try to talk. Because I have
no German except bitte or danke and
because I say, enunciating words
slowly, that I taught English
to Vietnamese refugees in Australia,
gesturing boat, she retrieves words
that I know from her pronunciation
are from her childhood, so we
are able to communicate a little.
She snips the overgrown cuticles, clips
the toe in my socks and massages my feet
and ankles so tenderly that in a beer garden
where we go for dinner, the flies think
that I’m a bakery.
A buxom manicurist with Cleopatra
eyes, comes up the stairs and tells me
that she learned English from girls
she worked with then goes to the WC,
I presume, and a good-looking
Vietnamese man in cargo pants
converses in their tonal language
with repartee that brings out harsh
sounds and sly, sidewise looks
from my pedicurist.
I pay the thirty Euros with tip
as my pedicurist struggles to say,
I want ideas, you, gesturing at her head.
Instead, I say goodbye but give her
an American hug before I walk away.
Wheel-chaired in the French
market, in front of a Cezanne
display of red peppers, raspberries
in little containers that we might pack
for a child’s lunch in Chicago
and fragrant Cavillon melons
that could be atomized as perfume,
most people step aside considerately
as my husband steers me past
the stalls like he is proud to push
the sled at Wattage, his exercise club,
but some women stare at me or worse,
seem to sneer, as if I didn’t eat my peas
so ended up in a wheel-chair
with lumber stenosis, but hopefully,
I’m being paranoid and their frowns
are due to some bruised fruit they see
or the harsh sun that sneaks its fingers
through the stand canopy, nothing
to do with me.
Once, somewhere, I stared
as a taxi driver opened
the back door for a woman
who cautiously stepped out.
He took some soiled tissues
to a garbage can. I sneered
I don’t know why.
When Jack slices his hand with the jagged
breadknife oozing blood on the bamboo
bread board terrifying both of them like
a dead aunt walking in the back door,
Kara responds as fast as she would return
a volleyball spike grabbing a clean dish towel
to press the sides of the gash together as she
learned to do in high school first aid.
When the bleeding doesn’t stop, they snatch
their jackets from the metal mudroom hooks
to go to Greenwich Hospital’s emergency
room, just two miles along Putnam Road.
Kara must drive, of course, since Jack is
elevating his wound like displaying a trophy,
so she wedges her very protruding nine-month
pregnant abdomen tight against the steering
wheel of Jack’s black Toyota truck.
She presses the clutch firmly with her left
foot as her mother once showed her to do,
then engages the gears and clutch, first
reversing from their driveway onto the dark
road, then lurches as she shifts to first, hits
the gas pedal and accelerates through
second, to third.
As she drives, she glances over at Jack’s
hand. It is still weeping beet red stains
on the dish towel. At last Kara is relieved
to see the ER entrance and the Valet Parking
sign. When she maneuvers into neutral, Jack
sprints out of the passenger side into the hospital
as the valet approaches her on the driver side.
He looks at the truck and says, “I don’t drive
manual. You’ll have to park it yourself.”
About Jan Ball
267 of Jan Ball’s poems appear in journals such as ABZ, Atlanta Review,
Calyx, Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Nimrod, and Verse Wisconsin, in
Great Britain, Canada, India, Ireland, and the U.S. Jan’s two chapbooks,
accompanying spouse (2011) and Chapter of Faults (2014), were published with
Finishing Line Press. Jan’s first full-length poetry book, I Wanted to
Dance with My Father, was published by Finishing Line Press in September 2017.
When not working out, gardening at their farm, or traveling, Jan and her
husband like to cook for friends.