Arthur Plotnik

Flat Feet Flat feet they call it,pes planus.Fallen archesflat against the earth. And I've got it, flat feet:Metatarsal coastlineswithout the inletsthat give safe harbor. No bigger thansardine tins were my shoeswhen the doc slipped them offand extracted from my socksnot quicksilver herrings at play but a pair of floundersflopped on their sides. Flat feet, he said, and soona specialist would torment the archeswith marbles on the insoles of my shoes, round rocks rebuking each step untilmy tendons cried for mercy andobeyed like brainwashed hostages. But down, down, they would fall again,resisting orthotic cures and quackery,defiant, unrepentant, irredeemable. Thus did I shuffle through my youth, only slightly out of step but bearingan affliction some call a devil's curse. I scuffed through corridors of learningand slipped the military's flat-foot filter to march in silent martyrdom withthe quick-stepping Army grunts,musing that if I went to warone fallen arch or the other would kissa landmine and blow me to hellfootless on the flames. But I didn't go to battle.Off my feet, I worked a desk,shaping and revising flatfooted prose,some of it my own; and later back in civvies I poundedpavements, slap, slap,looking for work, feeling curseduntil I happened on a catalog ofhuman ills and learned with joy that most of us are born with it---born with flattened feet, pes planus,waddling forth into the worldon devil-cursed soles. Fear not, my flatfooted brothersand sisters! Trust nature to completeits work and yourselves to rise--by means of virtue, charity, devotion--if not leap into space for humankindto step in moon or Martian dust, leaving indelible boot prints evenin gentle gravity; wide, grooved andarchless, telling civilizations to comethat we, the flatfooted ones, were here. Lazy Eye: A Sonnet for Mary I've had a good eye and a bad eyesince childhood, when the right orbwent on disability claimingamblyopia or "lazy eye" and thenoble left took charge of everythingexcept the right periphery outsideits reach, leaving the amblyopic eye,with a snow of unseen opportunities. But what missed fortune could equalthe miracle of you entering my skewedfield of vision? For here you are each dawn,when, even as the good eye reposesin crusty lassitude, the so-called lazy onegoes wild at the fuzzy sight of you. On Being “Arthur Plotnik” Arthur Plotnik was the worst name I never wanted,an outcome of my mother's softheartednesswhen the Saint Agnes maternity team loomedover her like priests and nuns, crucifixes dangling,and, I learned, she felt obliged to bend a Hebrewname to one more Christian. Otherwise I'd have inherited my father’s father's name,Aaron, ethnic enough to be paired with Plotnik,unlike "Arthur," wrong as crumpets with borscht. "Arthur" may sit well on kings, but in my youthI was less Arthur rex than a four-eyed smartasspint-sized target of bully Brian Burns, from theday he heard my name, no matter how I triedto slur it--Ahtha Pla'nah—Elvis-style. Classmates dubbed me Plotstink, Shitnik,Plopshit and whatever else would get a laugh,while teachers garbled it as Plotkin, one sucheducator spitting out the t like venom. Later on I thought to liberate my slave namefrom the record, posing as mystic Kintolp Ruhtra(say it backward) or Baron Anton Plotnikov,Byelorussian noble on the run. But on discovering that "Plotnik" was the Russianword for “carpenter,” as in the furniture makersof Minsk (my ancestors) or Jesus himself, I took itin again, soon to embrace it as a byline, a NameLike No Other to distinguish me even among tribesof Plotniks with their surpluses of Aarons and Abes. And if my Name-Like-No-Other is to mark a life likeno other or slightly better than most or less forgettablethan some, I’ll be happy to have borne it, with no epitaphlike “Mother, what were you thinking?” just my ashes scattered to the universe, where according to the lawsof probability they will reassemble as monkeys,one of them named Arthur Plotnik, writing this poem. Better known for his prose works, including two Book-of-the-Month Club selections (Elements of Expression and Elements of Editing), Arthur Plotnik has published poetry in Brilliant Corners, Rosebud, Harpur Palate, THEMA, Comstock Review, The Cape Rock, San Pedro River Review, Glass, Off the Coast, Kindred, and elsewhere. Formerly editorial director at the American Library Association, he was a finalist in the Dana Literary Awards for poetry and runner up for the William Stafford Award.