Oliver de la Paz

Self-Portrait in my Mother’s Shoes

What did I know of the pumps, the flats,
the high rises of arches pressed against my heel ball?
First, the bric-a-brac of the closet was a visual ache. It struck me
like a metronome tick. I was completing some pattern.

Then the last, late music, whirly-gigs of notes
strobed from the fairgrounds. The Ferris Wheel,
was the tallest thing in the valley. It was late in the summer
and the fizz from the carnival soda made me sick.

Then the décor of the vanity, the tubes, the jumble
of crèmes and the ricochet of light off
their plastic labels. In the mirror, I was all fishbone.
Limbs akimbo with my sunken chest and my feet

precarious, the digits crammed into the narrow tips
of my mother’s red stilettos—why the hell
did she own a pair of those? Over the airwaves
Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” made the world

so replete. So obvious. There was nothing to do
except disguise my life as the next. After the fairgrounds
closed for the evenings, I could hear the carnies
snarl into the darkness on their borrowed Harleys.

That night, I hardly existed at all. The town was alive
with gypsies, smelling of tree roots, grease, and beer.
I was penciled, wobbling like a fawn, ridiculously shod.
I must have looked over my shoulder a dozen times

for fear of my parent’s arrival,
earlier than expected. I climbed, rung by rung,
the possibilities of what would happen, having committed
the worst of betrayals in my father’s house.

So I eased out of those shoes, becoming here again.
How weightless I was, dizzy from sugar
and other people’s lives blowing by. How oblivious,
makeshift, and blooming.

from OCHO #20 (when it was MiPOesias Print Companion) May 2008
edited by Kemel Zaldivar


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