ALPHABET OF BOA
Tallying the burn holes in my mother’s carpet,
I find the shoes stashed beneath her bed.
First, ordinary pairs in muted burgundy, navy,
beige tempered by a dash of cream. Conservative
heels, schoolteacher arches. Behind these,
boxes of others I’ve never seen her wear:
gold lamé straps, patent leather spikes
with crushed velvet bows, green alligator mules,
ruby-beaded sandals, pink satin pumps speaking
an alphabet of boa,
most never unwrapped, soles unmarked,
origami of mail order slips inside.
See-through, sling-back, willing to reveal
a well-turned toe, these shoes can’t report
for yard duty, stand at a chalkboard, teach
anything but possibility. This, from a woman
who said, What’s the use of taking a walk?
You just end up where you started.
I wonder, when did she want to dance, when
did she settle for a flat dusty farmtown
where nothing stirs in the heat?
Just yesterday I bought her a pair
of orthopedic shoes, spackle-gray, chunky-soled.
Doctor’s prescription. As we sat her in the recliner,
angle tipped to prevent escape,
my mother’s feet hung like small white fish.
I watched the nurse’s aide
stuff each one inside the shoes.
“Aren’t these pretty?” he said as he double-tied
the thick laces with a flourish.
—from Rattle #24, Winter 2004