These rude feet

National Poetry Month, Day 5  //  When I was a child, finding a penny was a real treat, more so a nickel or dime. A quarter would make my day, buying me a seat for Saturday afternoon’s double feature with enough left over for a soda or a box of Milk Duds. I think of those days whenever I see a bit of small change on the ground. On rare occasions I’ve picked up a coin as a reminder of the time when I delighted in such small treasures, but I can’t recall when I last felt such glee over a penny.

When Annie Dillard was a girl, she would hide a precious penny of hers in a crack in the sidewalk or the roots of a tree and with a piece of chalk draw large arrows pointing the way to it. After she learned to write, she would label the arrows, “surprise ahead,” or “money this way.” Then she would run home without another thought of it until she was seized with the impulse to hide another penny. “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand,” she wrote, musing on the profusion of small treasures hidden in nature all around us. “But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny” (Chapter 2, “Seeing,” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)?

Lutheran pastor Gerhard Frost won’t appear in the pantheon of great poets, but surely he has a niche in some side chapel for his observations of life. Today’s poem, after it reminds me how clubfooted I’ve been during so much of my walk in life, is an invitation. Don’t look only to the grand vision, it cautions. Slow down and notice the details at your feet.

“These Rude Feet,” by Gerhard E. Frost (1909-1987)

It isn’t my story,
but let me tell it:

In the Scottish highlands
a man of science knelt,
crouched in the morning dew,
the better to hold a microscope
over a heather bell.

Lost in blue traceries of exquisite design
he saw a sun-drawn figure,
the shadow of a man.
Gazing up into a shepherd’s face,
he quickly bade him look.

One long moment
the old man stood, beholding,
pierced by microscopic patterns
in the flower.
Then he spoke: “I wish
you’d never shown me that!”
“But why?” was the surprised response.
“Because,” the old man said,
gazing at two worn boots,
“these rude feet have crushed
so many of them.”

These rude feet,
and this God’s day,
this most resplendent hour!
Father of mercies,
give me eyes,
make me aware:
I walk in Gift today.

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