This poem grew out of a real experience I had. A friend and I were walking, and we saw the shoes shown in the photograph. The shoes and the whole vibe was bizarre, and had a very otherworldly feel, so, of course, I photographed the them. This poem is still mysterious to me. All I can fathom is that it is a warning about stepping into a type of grief or unreality that is harmful. I'm so grateful for the warning. Thank you.
The "you" in this poem is my sister, Marsha.
“Unclean!” you warn.
I’m on a dirt path, a dirty path.
It should be Easter, but a blustery
damp ashes everything in a magic-infused
miasma. It’s sliding under my skin
like an electric snake. Sunlight shimmers;
I’m tilted into spring for a millisecond,
enough to keep me grounded.
“Oh, it’s dark. Dark, indeed. Dank
with crawling and scratching things,
the blood embroiled with a life-like
surging,” you confide.
“Don’t listen to the whispers. Don’t.”
Just sinister, a pair of shiny black shoes awaits.
They’re a little worn, and I can feel sweat sock my feet,
feel the soggy leather conform to my flesh.
“Don’t step into those. They’ll pull you away,
away, away down deep underground into the spidery
space under this earthly house.
You’ll be lost.”
I reach into my purse and extract an ivory linen handkerchief.
Your initials are stitched in black silk thread.
I kiss the embroidery, and a faint sulfur taint brushes by.
I drape the cloth over the shoes, and a grain-sized diamond
scintillates under an eyelet in the lace border.
Sometimes, it’s better not to look too deeply.