For Sumani

Sumani in Anuradhapura, Sept 2010 – just 3 months before her passing.


A house – not empty

But left cold by your absence

Chills me more than the

Weather outside.


I step inside,

And feet already cold from the outdoors

Get colder still

Despite safe haven from the wind.

I take a hesitant step towards the

Gloomy black of the back rooms –

Once your cheery domain

And my happy playground.


Today I force my feet

To move in that direction.


Another step…

…and yet another…

Each weaker and more faltering than the last.


My foot rises once more,

Hovers in still air,

The step incomplete.

Suddenly shy, it drops back a pace,

Whirls on its axis,

And bears me away from your memory.


Too soon.


Too soon to hear the echo

Of only one pair of footsteps

In that place where you

Walked for 35 years.

My feet don’t belong there

Without yours to accompany them.


My steps were always heavy –

First the restless stomping of a child;

The heavy tread of a thoughtful teenager.

Now the grieving drag of an adult.


Yours were light,


Crisp –

As if you were made of the thin air

You have now disappeared into.


And even as your bones grew older,

And muscles more tired –

Your feet would run after mine.

First in endless play,

in the leaf-strewn garden

Or up the stairs;

And later, to bring me

Steaming cups of tea

Or to press a guilty biscuit into my hand

Between meals.


I can almost see the void of you;

Hear  and feel the non-existence of your footsteps.

An awful blank; an awful silence

To which my feet and I will never grow accustomed.


Strange –

That when I sit down to write on your memory

I think not of your beloved face, but your feet.


Gnarled and dark, atop tough, spindly legs,

Curling around me

As I leaned against you,

Helping you to clean the rice for lunch.


You curved around me; And I around the bowl,

And we had our complete world of simple joy.


I would pick out the vee eta and my baby toes

Would wiggle in delight

At the importance of my task.


These are the memories I want to keep.

Of the feet – always bare –

That always ran and never walked.

That always tread a wary, watchful step after mine.


Those other memories I will keep at bay.

The ones of the feet that lay flinching on the white bed;

Or still and white-socked on the white satin.

Those were the feet of a stranger.

Feet, skin and bone I could not say goodbye to –

Because they did not belong to you.


But you are gone nevertheless

And so

This unempty house has no choice

But to continue to ring with the silence

Of your missing footsteps.

And feel cold

With the subtraction of your warmth.


And my still-stormy tears

and still-grieving feet

attest that neither it

Or I

Will ever be the same again.

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The real truth is, I probably don't want to be too happy or content. Because, then what? I actually like the quest, the search. That's the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to. What do you know? I'm having a great time and I don't even know it. - Ally McBeal

6 thoughts on “Feet”

  1. Beautiful…that left a huge lump in my throat. May she rest in peace. It made me think of my “kiri amma” who used to do similar things with me and how I never returned that love in my stubborn teen years until it was too late…:(

  2. Hooty, Killromeo & Delilah – Thanks for the comments. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to her being gone. She wasn’t just a guardian, but a parent. I miss her so much :(

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