Not supple, yet pliant, his foot is twice as old
as my hand in which it rests. He used
to say he walked five miles to school,
rural Virginia, until, new driver, I
measured the two-tenths distance.

He has soaked in the round pool
beside this rented stucco farmhouse.
The steel bites through yellowed nail;
the clipper's mechanics surprise us,
word-besotted pair unused
to tools beyond pencil or pen.

I scrape the cuticle, plow
each furrow between toe & nail;
his gaze over my shoulder betrays
a wince as he watches the starling
bring food to fledglings in the hayloft's eaves.

I sleep alone beside the nest;
their ruckus wakes me daily.
Uccello, he says, in eighth-
decade practice of a new tongue.
Gli uccellini hanno fame, I
reply: The little birds are hungry.

I gently file away the points
and pumice smoothes his skin.
From Segremigno's tower chime
three deep tones, a pause
before the light half-hour bell.

My father squeezes my hand.
I gesture toward the green
salamanders entwined on the wall.
New life to come. Like Magdalene,
I rub peppermint lotion
into his soles. Eyes closed, he smiles.

(c)Margaret J. Tinsley