I remember watching my father carefully cut cardboard shapes
to fit inside his shoes. The soles were worn through.
The cardboard would at least briefly keep him from
wearing a hole in his sock, which my mother would have to darn.
He would not throw away his old shoes
he would wear them as his work shoes when he could
no longer wear them to the office.
He mowed the lawn in oxblood wingtips.
He would polish the new pair lovingly
but he never polished the work shoes ever again
They were on their own.
He once told me he could make a pair of shoes last 18 years.
He had wooden shoe lasts, reserved for his newest shoes.
Each night he shined his best and made the lasts not too tight.
Once I played with them and pretended they were the curvy
cars of the future. Vroom.
He beat me with those wooden shoe lasts around my shoulders
and my back. These are not toys, Goddammit!
We cleaned out the woodshed years ago
I threw out pairs and pairs and pairs of shoes
but then I would find another pair, under a box in the garage
or three pairs near an old rocking chair in the attic.
Look, honey, my wife would say – and point at a pair of shoes.
It has been decades now, so I think at some point I threw out
his last pair of shoes.
We never found the lasts – I wonder where they went,
although at last
I don’t really care.