Father of Swollen Feet

Soaking them in a tub of Epsom salts

in front of the TV watched

through half-closed eyes

after sixteen hours behind the counter

of his grocery that opened before dawn, 

and closed well after dark, 

daylight mostly seen through a smeary window, 

this same father, at family weddings

squatting on the dance floor, kicking

his legs out one at a time, arms folded

across his chest or each touching 

the floor in turn so his upper body wagged

as he kicked, the leaps he made, legs in a V, 

his spins in the air, the clapping, stamping

of everyone circled around him, 

sweat like dew on his broad forehead, 

eyes like blue stars, the kazatske 

like a zenith in his immigrant heart, 

and me, his daughter, getting to witness 

what lived inside him

and what was snuffed out.


shapiro father swollen feet


Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is the author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster). Her essays have appeared in The New York Times (Lives), Newsweek, and more. Her poetry was nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes and once for The Best of the Net. Currently, she teaches writing at UCLA Extension. You can reach her at https://rochellejshapiro.com. Find her on Instagram and X at @rjshapiro