“art is life – not an imitation”

 

Breaking In Grief 

he wore

his dead son’s sneakers

bought a month before

the son’s step off into oblivion

new shoes a sign of hope

of a future planned for

not of a life too soon to be ended

 

they found the sneakers

still in their box

in the cupboard

worn once to try them on

designer expensive

too nice to toss or donate

so he’s wearing them now

it gives me the creeps

practicality in the face of catastrophe

 

I visited home

the summer after my father died

his death was sudden

it was the body that gave out

he didn’t go out of his way

to find that oblivion

I went through his clothes

to help my sister winnow out

throw out donate

to share some memories

I end up keeping a a couple of jackets

that actually fit me

with enough style to suit me

 

the shirt and pants

were easy to part with

most of the shoes too

my Dad was all business

when it came to shoes

his idea of comfort were

hard onyx red oxfords

there was box with a new pair

only worn to try them on

they sort of fit me

very stuff and inflexible

never being broken in

expensive

I take them

 

I wear them a few times

then drop them in a clothing box

they don’t fit

right size but wrong shape

maybe that’s why my Dad never

wore them either

the life my Dad hoped I would fit into

was also the right size

but the wrong shape

I was unwilling to do the work

that would break me in

so it would be a comfortable fit

 

I meet my friend one day

he’s sporting his son’s

wildly neon runners

it’s been a year after the death

he finally feels okay to to walk in grief

a grief he’ll never leave

but ready

to walk forward with it

This is a piece that wrote itself. A close friend of mine in recovery had recently had his son step off a balcony to his death. Helping his daughter-in-law in going through the son’s possession they found the running shoes. He did opt to keep them. These details are facts. The neon is my poetic liberty. It was the this reversal of the cliche that struck me – usually its the son filling his father’s shoes.

Which lead me to me filling my Dad’s shoes. Once again the facts are true – me helping my sister – this was back in 2002 (I think). I still havre those jackets & ear one of them frequently enough. The other is saved for special occasions. The only oxfords are real too though my father preferred more comfortable shoes for ordinary wear.

I did try them a couple of times before donating them. To fill tour father’s shoes also means to take on the life he lead, to fulfill those expectations of fitting into the normative culture – something I never did. I’m not even sure how hard I tried because it was clear I’d never do it – it would never fit.

My friend dealt with, is still dealing with, his tragedy. He spoke about his pain & struggle openly. I’ve performed this piece frequently & it has undergone a fair bit of tweaking to get the tenses right, the flow of information smooth. It is the last piece in my recent chapbook – though this edit is different yet again.

When I performed it at the chapbook launch earlier this year, I wore one of my Dad’s jackets. My friend came to hear me & he was wearing his son’s sneakers. Sometimes art is life – not an imitation.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

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