photo of shoes

The Labor of Shoes

By Johnson Cheu.


Then I remember my shoes.
How I have to put them on.
How bending over to tie them up,
I will look into the earth.

-- Charles Simic

Some mornings I forget

how it is

to live in this body.

I watch the sun

rising over fields and river,

crimson overtaking blue.


Then I remember to put on my shoes.

Bending over to pull up

my leg, I remember

Mom flexing ankle, bending

immobile toes, daily cajoling

foot into shoe.

How, at ten, I contorted

knees, ankles, toes,

over an hour-and-a-half,

finally triumphant.

How every day

for a whole summer,

I practiced.

How over a year

of therapy I learned

to tie them up.

The entire ritual of foot

to shoe, lace, and bow completed

in ten minutes.

Poems, like shoes,

are daily labor --

Connections to our bodies

and the earth.

Tracking where we've been

and where we've yet

to travel.

Johnson Cheu


This poem first appeared in Slide magazine.

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