My Mother’s Red Shoes
Four years old,
May West boa wrapped around my neck,
A cartoon of grown-up lady elegance,
black gloves up to my arm pits,
reaching for My Mother’s Red Shoes
in a clear plastic shroud at the back of her closet.
Mother calls me away,
offering silver sequined sandals.
But they are not tall
They do not satisfy.
dressing for a boy whose name is now long forgot,
striving for sophistication.
Mother-love is offered in the form of once forbidden treasure:
My Mother’s Red Shoes,
Stylish in 1960, not so in ‘75.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Back they go, entombed, unloved, unused.
Orphaned at forty-nine,.
Celebrating life requires dressing the corpse.
Rummaging in her closet a necessary intrusion.
Violating her privacy,
a box containing diaries with keys and letters,
the kind written by hand, postmarked and stamped for delivery-
I find a woman whose power I never imagined:
Mother was a romantic;
Mother inspired poets;
Mother broke hearts and disrupted happy homes.
In an envelope wrapped in red ribbon,
folded between pages of verse,
There she is, dark-eyed with gypsy curls and ruddy cheeks,
blooming on the arm of a man whose eyes match mine.
My Mother’s Red Shoes on this woman’s feet
tell of joy in life, abandon to love.
I can see her in the arms of this man whose eyes are blue,
dancing in My Mother’s Red Shoes.
Eulogies spoken and songs sung,
poems read and prayers offered.
In a room for private goodbyes,
I release my tired feet from practical mourner’s shoes,
Lift the lid.
I see this is not my mother,
wearing gold lame’ to meet the god in whom she did not believe.
This decaying relic will not mind wearing black flats to the hereafter.
I do not cry at her grave,
do not hear the final prayer, blessing, or dismissal.
Red roses fall onto her casket.
I stand in My Mother’s Red Shoes,
scanning bereavers’ faces for eyes of blue.