Untitled, Zachary Vaughn
On a closed silver garbage can
next to boxelders and cockroaches,
cigarette butts and rat droppings,
broken baby rattles and urine-soaked diapers,
a matching pair of size 12
I go down this alleyway
on daily walks
to my boyfriend’s place,
where I’m going now,
but I’ve never seen the dress shoes before.
If my late father, a cobbler, were here,
he’d flick the wayward fish flies from the shoes’
battered tongues, carry them back to his place,
fix them with
stiches and glue.
When he was hunched over
like a flattened topline in the dim light
at his work desk, rife with
string, nails, awls,
I watched him work and listened to him talk
the “palaces of our toes,”
the “cathedrals of our soles.”
I used to watch him slip shoelaces
into cap toe derbies, stitch grosgrain ribbons
into opera pumps, search through totes of
straps, laces, buckles
for the right bits to fix his clients’
monk strap shoes, dress boots, bit loafers.
He was buried wearing a pair of polished dress shoes,
same as the ones in the alleyway.
At the silver garbage can,
his deep voice weaves in:
Look at the shoes, the artistry.
I stoop to examine the
alleyway dress shoes, their
crumpled eyelets, throats, outsoles,
leather peeling like black asbestos,
shoelaces with frayed iglets,
scuffed full brogues,
warped Celtic decals resembling
weathered wings, dirt and dust
on purple stitching—
the left vamp bruised,
the right vamp beaten in—
Then I notice a pair of bedraggled
shoe tassels at my feet.
I pick them up, and set them on the dress shoes.
Sometimes I wish I paid more attention
to my father at his work desk.
I imagine him standing weightlessly
on the silver garbage can,
wearing the old shoes.
About the Artist
Zachary Vaughn · Oberlin College
Originally from Vacaville, California, Zachary Vaughn is a student at Oberlin College. This piece first appeared in Plum Creek Review.