Dress Shoes in an Alleyway

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

dress shoes.


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

about shoes,

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—


pitiful animals.

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 Author

Jacob Butlett· Loras College

Jacob Butlett earned his B.A. in Creative Writing from Loras College. His current works have appeared or are forthcoming in Outrageous Fortune, Cold Creek Review, Picaroon Poetry, Wilderness House Literary Review, Clarion, The Shallows, and Twelve Point Collective and can be viewed at http://jacobbutlettacademicreflection.weebly.com. This piece first appeared in The Limestone Review.

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. 

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