When we tidied her up
after the funeral
she had twenty-seven pairs of black shoes
(some still in their boxes)
and a pair of pink slippers.
Why did she have so many?
We voiced our question in awed whispers,
so as not to disturb the past
that lay thick over everything.
Wallowing in the empty time
we looked at each shoe, knowing
that she could not return to ask us
(in that abrasive voice she had)
what we thought we were doing there
going through her things.
Using our imaginations,
– by that time running like wild antelope
across the landscape of her life –
we found high-heeled ankle stretching fantasies,
curve of the calf, lure of the leg shoes.
Had she really once been vain enough for those,
she with the purple-blotched swollen ankles?
We found teeter and stride power shoes
for planting firmly in the faces of the fallen,
and stilettos for serious wounding.
How long since she had been so strong
that she could trample those who tried
to knock her down?
We saw her flat heeled running for the bus shoes,
her scuffed kneel to weed the garden shoes,
and one pair of diamante-buckled dance the night away sandals
telling stories we didn’t try to listen to.
Only the slippers made sense of the person we knew,
bumbling old lady velour slippers
edged with fur fabric,
and even they were useless in the end
because after the gangrene set in
she had no feet.