Are your shoes talking about you? Pulitzer Prize-winning Nebraska poet and former U.S. poet Laureate (2004–2006) Ted Kooser thinks so.
Ted has a poetry series called “American Life in Poetry” that runs once weekly in our local newspaper (thanks to The Poetry Foundation). He prefers poems that are accessible, precise, and vivid, and so do I. About this poem. No. 466 in the series, Ted commented that “the shoes we put on our feet gradually become like the person wearing them.”
I think poet Jim Daniels captures the visceral relationship we sometimes have with our clothes. He also gives us a poignant glimpse at the life of someone who does hard physical work for a living. I’m touched by the line “the promise of steel and the years to come.” We see the steel only because the boots are torn, so their promise of safety over those many years may be an empty one.
WORK BOOTS: STILL LIFE
Next to the screen door
work boots dry in the sun.
Salt lines map the leather
and laces droop
like the arms of a new-hire
waiting to punch out.
The shoe hangs open like the sigh
of someone too tired to speak
a mouth that can almost breathe.
A tear in the leather reveals
a shiny steel toe
a glimpse of the promise of safety
the promise of steel and the years to come.
Categories: Fashion & Literature