New Shoes

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New Shoes

One of the first poems I ever wrote (I believe I was eighteen years old). (Un)fortunately, I’ve had many more breakups, one night stands, goodbyes, and pairs of Chuck Taylors since.

These shoes have been through
three breakups,
two one night stands,
and too many goodbyes.

Cut up like a Thanksgiving turkey,
pockmarked,
covered with holes,
thirteen if you care to count;
I did.
One for every streetlight rendezvous
or hurried farewell
when I’ve only begun to say hello.

These shoes are none the better
for the wear.
But then again,
neither am I.
Frankly,
these are the best shoes I’ve ever had:
Chuck Taylors,
low,
black fade to purple fade to brown,
soles ground down,
treadless,
smooth.

I remember the day I got these shoes.
It was a day in August
A picture postcard southern California day,
a sleeveless T-shirt day.
I was in between girlfriends,
who are more difficult to pick than shoes,
but I didn’t need a new girlfriend,
I needed new shoes.

At the swap meet,
the merchants lounged behind their wares,
expectantly,
looking to make a buck,
peddling sunglasses and lawn chairs and bootleg action figures
assembled by pequeño hands
belonging to pequeño boys.

But there was one solitary shoe vendor:
a balding Hispanic with a hard-earned gut
and a well-deserved toothless grin.

He needed teeth.
I needed shoes.

Four, eight, nine, eleven, three:
everything but twelve,
or even thirteen,
which would suffice;
I was needy.

An inquiry, a checkerboard smile, an affirmation:
my size, my color,
right in front of me.
I never notice the obvious.

Thirty bucks on the tag,
thirty bucks in my pocket.
I contemplated haggling,
but decided against it.

If I knew then,
what I know now,
I could have gotten him down to twenty-five.
I’m sure of it.
After all,
three breakups,
two one nights stands,
and too many goodbyes
are worth bargaining for.

But he needed new teeth
and I needed new shoes.

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