He worked overtime to buy me shoes.
One pair of black patent leather to stretch
a year. The shoes gleamed a pitch black gloss.
The sheen of military caps marching
in a Labour day parade. I wanted
to run with feet bare as plums in rain,
but he’d have none of that. He told me
he walked in his grandfather’s shoes.
They had no soles, were big, and his toes
flapped like shutters in winter. My shoes
never danced, jumped or climbed. They were ladies
shoes fastened to place. They dangled once
from Murphy’s dock. One shoe dropped and cracked
ripples across the polished surface.
All the way home I thought of my father’s
frost bitten toe, purple and swollen, dragged
through snow. I heard the hiss of leather
as it slid through the loops of his pants.
A lawn sprinkler that snapped and spit over
the yards calloused and yellowing grass.
My shoes had black leather straps that buckled
like his belt on my backside. The pain
was different, unlike bare feet. With shoes,
there was wiggle room. Not much–but some.
a dirty poem
on a napkin
in her pocket
so no one
She washed it
and threw it
in the dryer
on high heat.
It came out
a little soiled
but still there.
She could not
wipe it clean.
marker, stained red,
When I was twelve
I sat in a circle
with three girls naked.
I listened as they described
our pubes to the boys.
Mandy had a bush, Pat a hedge,
Dawn a forest, and I bore a tree.
One single tree in a thicket.
I crossed my limbs while giggles
burned me into a red
Japanese maple, barren
and bald in mountain snow.
I could feel it root
behind my eyes, sting
a rash of freckles
over my inflamed, raw face.
When I think of my friends now,
I imagine a patch of nettles
that moss their crotch.
Hairs like hypodermic needles
that grow coarser, sharper,
and always need shaving.
I told myself then
that the tree
was a half-hearted pine
at the fringe of a forest.
They’re rare, grow slow,
and have the hardest wood of all.
In winter, they drop pine cones
shaped like hearts.
You left me,
a child on a guest bed
divided between two
old war trunks
in grandma’s spare room.
Aloe, jade and prayer
plants perish on its leather
strapped trim. On the wall
is a freezer that hums,
rattles and flickers
a goldfish glow.
This is my room
while my parents
how much I’m worth.
I sleep with the dead
fish, pigs, and cattle,
caught in the middle
of two wars and winter.