The Owls: A Natural History

A Natural History of My Feet

By Maureen Gibbon

Right after I’m born, I turn yellow with jaundice, so doctors change part of my blood through my heels. Welshman Bérnard Keller gives me the pints. Diolch yn fawr, Bérnard.

When I’m little, my father paints my toenails.

I wear my new first grade shoes everywhere, even with nightgowns.

At fifteen I get round-heeled. I tip backward into backseats and beds.

I leave one pair of shoes in Paris.

Each summer I break in new sandals. What really breaks are blisters.

At twenty-six, my lover tells me my Via Spiga heels are “killer shoes.” I should have used one on him.

In each of my feet, there’s a fan of metatarsals. My skin’s the silk, my talus the rivet.

My ex’s mother lost her legs by inches, starting with her toes.

I plan to keep my feet on the ends of my legs.



Maureen Gibbon is the author of Swimming Sweet Arrow, Magdalena, and Thief, a new novel forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2010. She lives in a meadow in northern Minnesota with black bears and wild turkeys.


The Owls is a site for collaborative writing projects. Selections from the site are cross posted here by the generosity of 3QD. Projects appear according to the plans and schedules of their writers and curators. Don’t forget your mittens.

“A Natural History of My Feet” is part of the Natural Histories Project. Curator Sean Hill asked writers to: “Focus in on one particular part of your self, tangible or intangible, and write a natural history of it based on your observations. This could be a natural history of almost anything; for instance, your eyebrows, stretch marks, tongue, ingrown toenails, frowns, tragi, tendency to embellish or ignore the truth, laughs, wanderlust, farts, pragmatism, shins, or asthma.” New Natural Histories appear every Wednesday. Read “A Natural History of My Earlobes” by Danielle Evans and “A Natural History of My Curiosity” by Brian Barker.

Other current projects at The Owls site include:

Days of Awe, an ongoing conversation via Twitter by Gabbat.
A new series of photographs via Flickr by cinematographer Fredrick Schroeder.
New Stamps by Cari Luna, Jonathan Railey, and Elatia Harris.

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