“Alphabet of Boa” by Candace Pearson

Candace Pearson


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


Candace Pearson: “As a child, I couldn’t stop staring at syllables, breaking them down, rolling them around in my hands to get the feel of their rough edges, their curves. That fascination remains. So, too, does my obsession with the syntax of trees, crickets, water, silence. I write poems to dissect those languages. And to find the bridges between.”

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