Jul '02 [Home]

. . Poetry Feature
Shoes (Socks Optional)

Editors' Preface

Selling Shoes
Miles Coon

Ursule Molinaro's Shoes
Barbara Foster

Stan Friedman

A Plea to the Vogue Model
Martin Galvin

Maureen Holm

Nothing Dates an Outfit Like  .  .  .
Vicki Hudspith

You Must Accept
Kate Light

Not enough for me
Rochelle Mass

shoes & the loofah like fellas they rein in
Jim McCurry

Obligations Toward My Shoes
Richard Pearse

Ode to Toe Socks
Stephanie Scarborough

Grandpa's Affair, 1936
Lori Williams

Compagnia della Calza
(Confraternity of the Sock)
Terri Witek

In My Rhinestone Model Tee's
Ginny Wray

Bankrupt Farms
Virginia's Shoes
Rob Wright

Contributor Notes

~ . ~ . ~

Selling Shoes
Miles Coon

Irving sits alone
in the early morning light
of a single bulb, surrounded

by inventory. The white boxes
stacked in a mausoleum,
the slow moving soles marked

with an "X". The smell of shoe
leather and cigarettes mingles
with coffee, gathers in the rows

he skims with yellow fingertips.
His notes of ins and outs become
an order that he writes unsteadily

with his Paper Mate
®. Then he dusts
the fitting stools and the samples
on the shelves that bake beneath

recessed lights. Another day
of knots and tangles that slow
the tie and untie dance, the push

of feet. The taking of the cash,
the shirt-sleeve smiles, the bows
followed by the gentle tap

to walk around. Rent to pay,
a big chain coming in nearby,
casual days that rob him

of dressy sales. He studied Yeats
before his father died.

~ . ~

Ursule Molinaro's Shoes
Barbara Foster

Quite a vamp
In her blonde heyday
Perched atop stilettos
Pointed as the rapier
Thrust of her wit

Pity any fool inspired to
Express an opinion
Or worse, to disagree
She sliced them up
To nibble like caviar

Now I wear her pumps
A loaded gift
In the fifties, the niftiest
     at Saks
Will I follow in her footsteps?
Wear black nail polish?
Steal lovers from the cradle?
Hate my mother?

Should I hurl her shoes
     into the trash?
Or, instead, fondle them
And hope her creativity
Not the polish, rubs off?
At least they're not red.

~ . ~

Stan Friedman

I have spent the day
untying the running shoes
of the women of Montreal.
It is easy.
Their steps are slow,
predictable as a downbeat,
and generously unguarded.
They employ the footwork of the bilingual
the patient two-step of a people
who say everything twice,
ascending like an accent aigu,
falling like the crosshatch of a Q.
But mostly, it is about the knot.
New Yorkers wear their Reeboks
to work in the morning with the knots
tight paradigms of their lives,
a surrogate strangle of their husbands' necks,
the unsolvable tangle of so many suffocating nights.
But the women of Montreal are loose
with their strings, even double-knots
give up their bows like a muffler
freed from its rusted mount, dragging
through the Avenue du Parc,
throwing sparks at my open palms,
lighting their paths
without them even knowing.

~ . ~

A Plea to the Vogue Model
Martin Galvin

To let the rude bones show, and showing, sharp
The easy flow of form that dulls the eye
Lulled by its soft falls. Let the ears protrude
Like whelks from a head smooth as damp sand.
Let shoulder blades like torn wings break
The steep descent of back, let the elbows
In crazy triangles dance like clumsy
Marionettes, pulled by finger fling.

The bald knees show they know a thing or two
About what's comely rude. And splayed feet
In shoes that cannot afford socks with bones
Beyond the fingering, feet like birds, bones
That never can be mended once they break,
Break paths no architect for all his flow
Could follow, but small boys could, and mad
Old women bent to shape, and sometimes,
Sometimes, when you forget and be glad
Of the girl that's awkward in you, you.

(Prior publ.: Descant)

~ . ~

Maureen Holm

The young one drove the nail
so deep he lamed me
for a summer.

The old one knelt to trim, knew
quick from cuticle,
chip from bone,
          roughshod from hobbled.

The girl held the pail, spilled
tears on withers, longing
on curry comb.

~ . ~

Nothing Dates An Outfit Like  .  .  .
Vicki Hudspith

I love shoes
They always fit no matter how much weight you gain
They are the one item of clothing
You can see while they are worn

My brown suede Joan and David cowboy boots with low heels
Make me Annie Oakley with an attitude
But they are sensitive to rain
And too wide at the top for jeans to squeeze over

Ah, the yellow Italian loafers! I was accused
Of looking preppie but someone else said they proved
I was a spirited soul when I wore them on
A drizzly gray day

The navy and white Bruno Magli polka dot heels.…
We waited for hours in Florence for the shop to open
No one else was ever as amazed by them
As I was

In the wicked witch black chunky heeled pumps
I am a porno star
Hiding in "The Nun's Story"
When I wear them with a long black dress

Earthy brown leather sandals with thick rubber soles
From Jenny B in SoHo are very politically correct
Soft black suede Italian loafers look so good
I bought a pair and a spare for when they wear out

Tucked away in a felt bag — Joan and David
Couture velvet renaissance pumps. The clerk was so delighted
When I bought them. It felt like signing adoption papers
When I signed the credit card slip

The woven leather sandals my daughter picked out
In a London department store
Are so respectable they shout "MOM!"
But are perfect in late Spring, early summer

The incredible black Arche boots were too big
Until after my feet grew with the second child
Now they are very "Downtown"
And fit like slippers

The ankle high "No Name" pull on boots
With giant two inch crepe soles
Make tight jeans look sleek
I tower the earth when I roam in those

Draped sadly over the shoe rack in my closet are the conchos
For my now departed purple Tony Lama cowboy boots
Bought on Christopher Street in the 70's
Later I dyed them black and the dye rubbed off on everything

There are several pairs of Susan Bennis sandals
Purchased at 75% off
(Their motto: "The most extravagant shoes in the world")
Some fit, some don't. So much for sales

I thought I had accidentally sent one to Bosnia
As part of a charity drive
I was broken-hearted and couldn't
Bring myself to throw the other one away.

For months I opened the closet and looked longingly
At the bereft favorite shoe. That summer my friend said
"Bring your beige sandal. I took the other one to Jimmy's. Remember?"
I had begged her to take it in as I boarded a plane back to Europe

I was married in a pair of petal soft
Gray suede sling back pumps with floppy bows
I'd never throw them away but I'll never wear them again
They rest in the deepest reaches of a storage cupboard

My new Nike Air's are the coolest
I saw a boy at my kid's school check out
My feet and follow up my legs. A look of shock
Registered as he realized a parent had them on. I was thrilled

My favorites are lace-up suede boots with soft rubber soles
I have four pair, two in black and two in brown
So call me Imelda, I don't care
They're waterproof, springy and fit over leggings or under jeans

"Nothing will date an outfit like shoes,"
A fashion model told me
I was standing outside La Tante Claire
London's luxurious French restaurant

My hostess was wearing the latest retro
Chunky-heeled platforms by Donna Karan
While I had on my 75% off-black suede tiny heeled pumps
They had been good for years

And so I recall a movie that ended with a blind man
Sitting against a building advising another man
Who was down on his luck
"You can watch the world go by

Just by listening to people walk," he said.
Does the right or left heel strike the pavement hardest
Do they drag their feet, or shuffle…
He could know a lot about them

I'm wearing old floppy Minnetonka moccasins
It's winter
And I'm about to go out
Time to go to the closet and choose

~ . ~

You Must Accept
Kate Light

You must accept that's who he really is.
You must accept that you cannot be his
unless he can be yours. No compromise.
He is a canvas on which paint never dries;
a clay that never sets; he's steel that bends
in a breeze; he's a melody that when it ends
no one can whistle; he is not who
you thought. He's not. He is a shoe
that walks away: "I will not go where you
want to go." "Why, then, are you a shoe?"
"I'm not. I have the sole of a lover
but don't know what love is." "Discover
it, then." "Will I have to go where you go?"
"Sometimes." "Be patient with you?" "Yes." "Then, no."
You have to hear what he is telling you
and see what he is; how it is killing you.

~ . ~

Not enough for me
Rochelle Mass

One cupboard is piled high
with shoes in boxes
in pairs, packed one on one
toe to heel, and heel to toe.
Too many shoes for one life
one woman.

Low heels in soft suede.
High heels in fancy leather
mostly black and a mustard pump
that meets the heat of august.
Too many shoes for one woman
one life.

Red runners high-topped
with laces
and multiiped air-soled nikes.
Brown loafers open for a penny
blue keds for swimming
and high boots
for winter rains.
Too many for one woman.

Each month the arch in my narrow foot
begs for a new style to slip into.
I, like a narcotic, satisfied and puffing
dream of places
waiting for my foot.

Each month the arch
in my foot
begs for a new style to slide into.
Too many for one life
one woman, not enough for me.

~ . ~

shoes & the loofah like fellas they rein in
Jim McCurry

Club rules: Smile. Don't squeal.
Know not to ask. Sit there
silent, unfalsetto. Trim
pigsfeet with the pale aplomb
yr feathered moll adores.
The furze is white, the scissors
Elan, she calls us Mister and Sir.
Overdue each mantic, unromantic
momentito—when does the next shoe fall?


It's not about shoes, but let's say it is.
Nor is it about the Russian River pinot noir,
but then again, ditto.

At the next table, a man speaks to a woman
of asking the question. He says,
"Am I supposed to be in spiritual mode
toward this other woman I want
to date—or sensual?"

She says, "I don't know.
Do what you have to do."

I don't know what to focus the attention
upon, even in prayerful meditation.
I focus on his wingtips, her heels.
I imagine them trading shoes—

perhaps because she has leached
all the tone from her bleached blonde voice,
while his voice is inflected, ersatz,
'puppy dog' soulful. But perhaps
that is not the explanation.

I crawl over and raise my two hands
like paws, and pant in and out,
and say: "Try putting on
each other's shoes."


Having craved a certain pair
of dark suede wingtips
from Italy—what to my amaze
did greet my pied eye

but a 62% off
offer on same?
Needless to say,

I popped my anti-paranoia pill
with an anti-synchronicity chaser
& fired off the check
in the mail.


I am coming out now,
for I am not homosexual,
yet there are times
five minute retreats)
when I adore the closet.

I think it is a hangup
on the smell of fresh
skinned & tanned
hides, when the leather
is hardly broken in—

when sweat & stinky flesh
have not yet corrupted
them virgins.

~ . ~

Obligations Toward My Shoes
Richard Pearse

Without complaining my shoes have assumed my exact weight.
Without complaining. I grew fat
and pressed them harder. They never squeaked.
I stomped them over dogshit. They took the stink,
not me; over roses, they took the guilt.

Now they're exhausted.
They lie on their cracked sides under the bed.
Slowly they grow. Whatever they brush against turns into night:
first the bed, then the cabin, then the sky.

Finally they relent, allow a chilly dawn. It's time.

I get up and climb the back hill (for once I'm carrying them.)
I soak them with gasoline.
I abide by their last requirement: I step into them and light the match.

This is better: my smoke isn't weighing down theirs.

In the middle of the sky, the calves that died to make them
are lifting their heads. In welcome? In mooed derision? What?

(Prior publ.: The Helen Review)

~ . ~

Ode to Toe Socks
Stephanie Scarborough

Each housed inside its own acrylic sphere
Of itchy, snuggly, polka-dotted sock
My toes feel isolated as I walk
And numb. Quite numb. Extremely numb, I fear,
And with each step it grows much more severe.
Perhaps because they shrank up to the shock
Of Mr. Store Clerk who proclaimed, "We're out of stock
And won't get any more until next year."
I can't wear my blue stiletto heels
Unless I want some amputated toes,
And even in my Birkenstocks it feels
As though I'm wearing concrete. I suppose
I'll throw them in the attic for a while
And wait a decade 'til they're back in style.

~ . ~

Grandpa's Affair, 1936
Lori Williams

Vincenzina's red patent leather shoes
cost a week of suppers; each dig
into his flesh a chicken leg,
a peach or cup of milk.

The Wife

Knuckles knocked on doors, quietly.
A sister's nickel here and there
to swallow something that tore throat
and unnamed places, worse than any gristle,
or pit from rotten fruit.

The Affair

They went to picture shows,
she with her red shoes, proud
to see the latest, clutching him
as if he were the new Sicilian star;
a pepper-nosed, garlic-breathed
Clark Gable.

America, he thought, land
of opportunity! A blonde and blow
for the price of a ticket, for the price
of a pair of shoes.

The Marriage

She followed him to the theater,
her soles singing arias to the pavement.
She watched him kiss her painted lips,
hold her skinny elbow, lead her to the dark.

Stopped to buy rock candy for the kids,
a penny she would spare. A penny
she would owe. Tucked the crystals into her apron,
sweetness for them all, hummed along
with cardboard, home.

Forty Years Later

At the end, he whispered, Maria, on your tombstone
there should be diamonds and rubies.
You have been a good wife.

She thought of the shoes, ruby red—
never told him she knew.
Good wives stay silent and pale,
waiting for moments like this.

~ . ~

Compagnia della Calza
(Confraternity of the Sock)
Terri Witek

My Well-Furbished Sir:

That your pedal extremities have been dressed
not in chukkas, brogans, boots or waders
but only in peppermintiped extravaganzas
reaching halfway to your crotch suggests

you expect the evening's foray to be dry and long
(your calves already trumpet dawn)
and that no browsing herd precedes you,
no peak frets past its ledge, the way rolls on

without straying into what's beside it
your best stick routs each urgent vine or dog
and at each milestone you still less suspect
that half your brethren are already lost.

~ . ~

In My Rhinestone Model Tee's
Ginny Wray

I've finally found the shoes of my desire
in a mail-order catalogue on page 16.
Called Model Tees,
they have short squat heels
made for dancing,
pointy pointed toes, and a skinny tap.
They come in black patent leather
and red, just imagine!
and for five dollars extra
there's a rhinestone clasp.

But they're too pretty for me
and I know I'll never buy them.
I'm too old, too tall—
I can hear my mother laughing.
And yet, if I had the guts to wear them
I'd create a big scandal
dancing the Flamenco with a
slim Latin lover (too short, but who cares?)
and his pants would be so tight
they'd start a riot in the ballroom
and we'd all go up in flames
like crackling paper dolls.

Sadly having no lover,
couldn't I still wear them
with my old blue jeans and
my lumberjack jacket
to buy a quart of milk
and a box of Cheerios?
I can see myself now
looking cheap as dimestore roses
with the rhinestones at my ankles
driving to the deli in my brand new Model Tee's.

~ . ~

Bankrupt Farms
Rob Wright

I was given the old boots for nothing,
black and slick as a seal's muzzle;
the cracked rubber leaked in slush,
as I tramped the bushed-out flats
and bogs, navigating with the balls
of my feet and chance, following the ruts

and tracks between rusted wire, ruts
filled with oil seep and bald tires. Nothing
left of the farm's stock but bones. A ball
joint exposed, polished by the muzzles
of skeletal dogs who patrolled the flat
field's borders, whose tracks I saw in slush

running in pairs. Their yellow marks in slush
still steaming in the ruts.
I found one shot, and lying flat —
a new mother, nipples extended, nothing
left of her head but the muzzle's
grinning jaw, and socket that held the ball

of her yellow eye. No ball-
fetcher this one, whose grave in slush
no child marked, or stroked her muzzle
in remembrance. Her pups left in a rut
for crows, marauding males, and the nothing
of hunger, the long echoes, the flat

silence. At the road's end, a flat-
roofed farmhouse, buckled, like a puffball
squashed by a giant's daughter. Nothing
left but withered pansies, the muzzle
of an iron stove, fly-specked oil cloth, slush,
and a jar of fossils, gathered from ruts.

I'd often picked prints of ferns from ruts
when the spring rain washed the flat
fields to furrows and lakes of pooling slush.
In a bedroom, I found a pink ball
gown and sash set on a rifle muzzle
like a mannequin. Of the woman, nothing

but the smell of still-birth, hard in the muzzle, a ball
of failure on a flat trajectory; flesh becoming slush.
Nothing but bones washed in spring rains from ruts.

~ .

Virginia's Shoes
Rob Wright

I remember hearing from a teacher
that Virginia Woolf took off her shoes
and pointed them, neatly
before walking into the river.

The teacher was amused by that
thinking it an act of vanity
like writing script in copperplate
or dotting i's with circles.

Maybe he was only covering
the icy horror of the act
with condescension. At the time
I thought it stuffy, English, old-maidenly.

This morning I awoke imagining
my feet in silt, the way it cools
as the toes sink in. The mud whirling in eddies,
mixing around the bone-white

shins. The prickle of new growth. She/I
must have shaved them— last week?
She/I thinking that if we had known
we might have troubled with a razor.

Then turning for an instant to notice
the shoes left haphazardly
on the grassy bank, and pausing to tidy.
Pattering mud into the lime-green lining.

But knowing not to hesitate
over-long. Loading her/my pockets with stones
as wool gathered water-weight
warm with piss now. And noticing

that the skirt was sinking not spreading—
as in the Shakespearean convention—
but wicking water to the waist
making it difficult, but not impossible, to walk.

~ . ~ . ~