Pamela Clarke Vandall, 7/12

New Shoes


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.


Dirty Poem


She wrote

a dirty poem

on a napkin

in blood

red ink,

stuffed it

in her pocket

so no one

would see.

She washed it

in Sunlight

soap, water,

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,

in memory.


Stinging Nettles


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

figure out

how much I’m worth.

I sleep with the dead

fish, pigs, and cattle,

caught in the middle

of two wars and winter.


 Pamela’s poems have appeared in Bare Hands, Poetry Bus, The First Cut, Ginosko, West of West Review, Outburst and Island Writer. She was shortlisted for the Fermoy Poetry Festival and has poems forthcoming in Tree Killer Ink, Gargoyle Magazine and Silver Bow’s Poetry Anthology.  She’s a member of the Gabriola Poetry Society and resides there with her husband and 2 children.
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