Today we begin a week of poetry at Sunlight.
The Other Shoe
Like some careless mammoth
I step into the melting lake of tar
on the street, but lucky my life—
I lose a shoe, yet do not sink into
eternity. What do the shadowed drivers
think when they pass that sunlit shoe,
swerve to avoid it, run it over?
Why just one shoe? Isn’t that
When we see two shoes connected
by their laces thrown over a power line
above the street, we comprehend
the toss and glee that put them there.
but a single shoe that caught the wire
and held? How long did that take to do?
Or perhaps the mystery is what took
the other shoe, the asphalt
without the pairing match.
It bothers, as if the one has been
abducted, or perhaps discarded
in a ditch, and we think of kids’ faces
on milk cartons, imagine a post of
a shoe, just to mate one back with another.
My father said that after my mother died
he felt he’d lost a leg,
that he limped, could not find footing
on the pavement, that a wire
had been strung between his limbs
for life and without her on the other end
he seemed unconnected, off balance,
liable to trip and fall. Though he lived
another eleven years he never found
the other shoe.
I stand on the curb and see my shoe
Stuck in the tar like a memorial.
I could return and wrench it back,
but I know why tar exists,
why mammoths died, but to stoke
the fire of curiosity, of remembrance,
of sympathy for shoes without their other,
I let it stick.
Truth is, I liked the cold spring, raw skin from not wearing a coat
or shirtsleeves when the sun was out and the wind
whipping everything not tied down, my jacket around a girl
who needed a jacket more for style points than warmth,
puddles freezing under a cloud with that white skiff of ice
floating across the middle and then disappearing when the sun came out.
We moved from cold to colder, laughed at the shapes
the wind made of our long hair, the electricity
of dry air, the putting away of a basketball
and the constant pounding of a mitt by the fist of a neighbor’s kid.