New Welsh Review

Under the Thumbs

Poem by Rob Miles

PUBLISHED ON: 22/07/21


TAGS: family, loyalty, poverty

This post is free to all website visitors

For access to the full New Welsh Review archive, become a subscriber today.


Just above the water: my ten toes. A distinct arch in a hot heaven of foam. Both little toes particularly little, noticeably curled. The next equally unusually permanently bent

and so on. In summer sandals, once
a friend pointed out how I must have spent my childhood in badly fitting shoes. I didn’t
try to correct him. Even in a distant city
and four decades away, I wouldn’t admit to lying
about the pressure of the thumbs
whenever Mum pushed down firmly
all around the edges as if
to seal a pie. Often not my choice, she’d judge
the pairs she’d picked for me to try
to have much more room to grow in. And off
I’d trudge for months, toes scrunched
to hold them on, to save, to prove she wasn’t wrong.


Rob Miles is from Devon and now lives in West Yorkshire. He has taught translation, Hispanic- and visual-cultural studies at several British universities. His poetry has appeared widely in anthologies and magazines such as Ambit, The Interpreter’s House, The New European, The Anthology of Age andThe Anthology of Love (both the Emma Press). Rob has won competitions including the Philip Larkin Prize, the Resurgence International Ecopoetry Prize and the Poets & Players Prize.