Tell By Their Tread (i) – (vii)


Forward Froggy Fretwell promises sloppy snogs behind the prefab at playtime.
In our dark den in the wood under
the grey coarse blanket nicked

from Mam’s black spot airing cupboard,
Froggies piggies taste like penny chews,

“This little piggy went to market,
this little piggy had roast beef,

this little piggy had none,
and this little piggy

went wee, wee, wee, wee
all the way home” tickling

all the way up her under her skirt
to her white panties where she’s weed

herself laughing, “Poo”, I say. “Don’t put
your liquorice stick near it. Don’t want

babies.” she says smiling through her braces,
her blue eyes glinting in late summer sun.


Nanna’s bunions hobbled
her stance for years.

She chose sandals that allowed
the bulbous growth air.

A regular visit from a pedicurist
kept that pain at bay.

She only used a stick under protest
the last few months before death.


Laid on her front,
I have my back to her,
her feet either side
of me over thick green
Egyptian cotton towel,

brushes my back with her Achilles.
I switch on the coarse roller,
gently move it up and down each toe,
hard dead skin falls like snow.

Twenty years a nurse, she stood
ealies and lates in operating theatres.
” You can’t ask
patient to put their finger
in the hole as you’ve reached
end of your shift and ‘ll be
back tomorrow.” she laughs.

She almost nods off,
the massage is an electric
spring after winter.


My mam riddled with cancer
put her steroid fat feet
over my step dad’s legs
on the couch
as they watched tv.

He massaged her feet
as if he could remove her pain.


Dad’s feet are always gross.
Sat at the end of their double bed

a sheet of “Wakefield, Pontefract
and Casteford Express” laid on the bedroom carpet,

toe clippers in hand he slowly cuts each nail,
rarely sprinkles the paper with them,

instead they ping all over,
onto Mam’s court shoes and under

her dressing table, into the hallway,
and weeks later barefoot to the bathroom

my soft soles pierced bloody
by his stray parings.

She decides to sleep with him,
when she sees his rolling gait.
His tongue lolls at the roundness
of her ankles as she catwalks.
Over dinner
he inhales the jasmine perfume
of her high arches and curves,
puts his feet between her legs
and gently kneads her wet.
Later, after red wine,
she wraps her two feet around
his penis, her toes tickle his balls.
His feet are muscly and strong.
She says “Your feet are nice and smooth.”
She caresses them softly, teases his toes
with her lips then kisses
between them, sucks them,
into and out of her mouth,
as if each digit a sweet lolly,

ten cousins of the big toe
without nail between his legs.

He follows instep curve
to taste dessert in her kneaded folds.


Mam gets out the stinky vinegar
like we’re having fish and chips.

“Stop fidgeting your feet!”, she reprimands
as she uses cotton wool to coat

my verrucaed foot. Like an alien
from Doctor Who, or triffid.

“No you can’t go swimming. You’ll spread disease. Disgusting boy!”

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