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Sport 35: Winter 2007

Cleaning Shoes

page 175

Cleaning Shoes

You old charmer, wastrel, dreamer, sad man, fraud,
I cleaned your shoes, pairs of black and brown leather
Lace-ups, polished them on the bench under the grape vine
Trellis, for years. It was my job. What was yours?

It should have been being my father. I stood at the fence
Beside you, waist high, hand in a pocket like yours,
In belted shorts, jacket, tie, even a pocket handkerchief like yours,
For the photograph I have. Boy was I proud. What a picture.

I tried my hardest, step after step, to make my shoes crunch
Like yours, the time you walked out and along the gravel road,
After that row with my mother. I had to choose. I did. I went
With you, breathless, to the wonderful noise of your walking.

My short, light footsteps made no such sound. I watched
You walk from me once, a last time—leaving me
Behind, pressed under the heavy hand of a stranger—
Along the short, sunny, turning drive. One shoe after another.