Mother kneels at her closet of dancing shoes
to see which ones I fit -- sherbet-green
taffeta and crimson crocodile, pumps
in Easter pink, plus a dozen black heels
with bows or aglisten with rhinestones,
all wicked run down. Likewise,
she's gnarled as a tree root, her spine's
warped her shorter than me, over whom
she once towered with red hair
brushed back into flame points.
Seeing her handle those scarred leather hides, I quote
the maenads' sad lament from The Bacchae.
After they've chased down
the fleeing god, fucked him dead, sucked
all flesh from his bones, dawn spills light
on their blood-sticky mouths,
and it's like every party you ever stayed
too late at. In chorus they sing and grieve:
"Will they come to me ever again,
the long, long dances?"
And Mother holding a black-patent ankle strap
like a shackle on a spike heel
it must've been teetering hell to wear glances
sidewise from her cloudy hazel eyes and says, "No,
praise God and menopause, they won't."
The Atlantic Monthly; January 1998; Beauty and the Shoe Sluts; Volume 281, No. 1; page 59.