The mother of a lost son
invites me to a charity walk
because I wrote a poem
about her boy.
I don’t know what I’m expecting,
but it isn’t the shoes.
We start walking,
hundreds of us,
mothers and fathers,
children and friends,
and all around the track
are these empty pairs of shoes.
Ratty old gym shoes. Red high heels.
Sandals and sneakers and steel-toes.
There are old men’s leather loafers
with their soles worn out
and young men’s combat boots
still smelling of the dust
they warred over.
There are ballet shoes and hiking boots
and far too many mismatched pairs
that never quite fell in step
with the others.
That never should have been made to.
We are walking,
survivors and sympathizers,
and alongside these shoes
I’m thinking of a fifteen year old girl
who emails me from Denver
at three in the morning
saying “I think I’m gonna kill myself tonight
and I need you to tell me
something to keep me here.”
She says it like
she thinks poets have tongues
made of anchors,
and I don’t know what to tell her.
I can tell her she’s beautiful,
I can tell her she’s loved,
I can tell her it gets better,
I can tell her there’s help out there,
I can tell her “Honey, somedays
I want off this planet too.”
In the end, I tell her
what I’ve been telling myself for years.
The sun is going to come up tomorrow
and you can be one of the things
it pours its light down over.
I never hear from her again,
and as I’m walking around this track,
I’m looking for a pair of size seven
baby blue Chuck Taylors
and hoping I don’t find them.
We near the end
of this march of empty shoes,
we silent walkers,
poured over with the light of the sun,
some holding hands,
some holding ourselves
with one foot in front of the other
and then we stop.
I can’t help but look back
to see if we’ve left anyone behind,
but we’re all here.
We’re all here.This poem © Gabriel Gadfly. Published October 4th, 2012.