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Your Sister, Wyeth, Shoes

This morning you’re thinking about shoes,
of a painting your sister is trying to complete,
socked feet of all those young men, her son’s
friends come to make a shiva call, to visit
a mother in shock, grieving, boys removing
sneakers so as to not soil her carpet.

Fifteen years later, she paints what she still sees,
that shoe pile by the door. When you
watch her, you are mind-walked around

other pedestrian testaments:
D.C., the Holocaust Museum—
everyone notices the shoe room, your guide
says while you try to erase imprinted images: scuffed
baby shoes, ragged laces on brown work boots
your mother would have said had plenty of life
in them still
.     Children killed by gun violence

are represented by so many colorful tee shirts over crosses
in front of one old city church, and these rustle,
ghostly moans in slight breeze, but shoes, one pair
for each lost civilian Iraqi set in twos across the grassy
public mall in front of Independence Hall look,
from a slight distance almost playful,

as if the dead had lined up in a game of Simon Says
and Simon said rise skyward, or maybe they
were lifted by the pull of a UFO, or perhaps
raptured, in any case, called home to a place
of bare feet only. Something so present in
the absence of the human form,

as you knew Wyeth knew. When you saw
his studies for a painting titled The Fisherman,
you saw a study in erasure: sketch after sketch of less and less
of the man until, in the final oil—a room, fishing boots by
the slightly ajar door. Or maybe not ajar. The room
you’ve mostly forgotten.

The dead you can’t kick off like old shoes.
They slip through cracks, step lightly
across the worn floorboards.


  1. Linda Romanowski on

    Liz, this is wonderful. You are a gem, always. Love you!

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