What she left was fifty pairs of shoes—
all her clothes and rhinestones
parceled out to relatives,
except the shoes, arranged in rows,
as if a Broadway chorus line
had vanished at the curtain call,
assumed as God’s own dancer’s,
leaving just these vestiges, fifty pairs,
no tennis-shoes or loafers,
but every pair impractical,
and all too small.
That was her lie, or one of them:
ladies had small feet, it seemed;
big feet were just boorish.
So she crammed toes in dainty leather spikers
on which she danced, or tried to,
and its trying that hurts most,
even more than well-heeled feet
that ached by evening’ s end when tipsy
but bedizened, balanced on stilettos,
she wobbled into my room to kiss
and leave a taste of perfume, smoke, and gin.
Left to me, her whole estate,
a scuffed-up, mothballed fleet of shoes,
harbored with regret and hardly worth the salvage,
but how dispose the hope to sail
through gales of brass and drums
with shoes like wind-tossed caravels,
cresting on a rhythm’s wave?
Still, I thought, they might suit
some downtown hipster’s fancy
and packed them in a Goodwill box
then whistled “In the Mood.”
The whistle changed to humming,
humming into scatting,
but no ladies filled the floor, no gorgeous swinging ladies.
I slapped the beat against the wall,
slapping louder with each bar.