I keep them in the drawer under the bed,
In the space that has stood empty
Since the nightmares left to frighten other people’s children.

Formed like the fishing nets of peasants from villages
As remote as your life was to me,
They hauled you from your bedroom, down the hall
And dumped you into the La-Z Boy of old age.

My memory does not reach to a time that they were not about you,
Paired by your bed in patient expectation or clinging to your feet
With a devotion I could not match.

Their rubber soles are as smooth as ice.
Mama threatened to throw them away after you slipped on the tiles,
But you refused to take them off, then hid them –
Snugly stuffed into the pockets of your overcoat.

Sometimes I would dare to touch them while you slept
To the sound of the television speaking in tongues.
I would trace their navy webbing to the music of your language lost to me,
While they, understanding, traced the purple filigree of broken veins
That meandered out of your gaping trouser leg.

I once felt your toenails through them,
Running my thumb along their edge.
They were hard as hooves and threatened to cut
The weave of the rope that always held you,
When I could not.

Now I keep them in the drawer under the bed.

They fit me perfectly.

© GB 2007

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