Monday, May 27, 2013

Poem: Jacobs Department Store

Jacobs Department Store

When I was growing up, we’d go to Jacobs department
store in Paterson, New Jersey, my mother, brother,
sister and I made our way to the shoe department
to get our shoes. They carried brown oxfords, Buster
Brown, the only name brand item my mother ever
bought for us. No ballerina shoes for us. Only those
chunky oxfords, trying to insure our feet would be as
safe as she tried to keep us. In the shoe department,

they had a machine that X-rayed your feet so they
could fit you with the perfect size shoes. I loved that
machine, sliding my feet into it so I could see the bones
in my feet, the shape of them like silver shadows. How
easy it was to see the interior of the foot, the bones
of the toes, but today nothing is easy. I’d like to slide my
life into that foot measuring machine, figure out why on
a day so bright with autumn, my worry is darker than

all beauty and nothing is easy. Not the email I get
from my son in Texas saying, “I don’t want to talk
about it, but Texas stinks,” and I know my son, a man
of few words, has sent out a distress call louder
than a sonic boom, and if I ask him, he won’t tell me
what’s wrong, though he used to tell me everything
when he was a boy and I sat on the side
of his bed and held his hand until he fell asleep
and nothing is easy, not my worry about my husband

whom I left behind yesterday even though
his head is bent sideways on his neck
so it looks as though he’s going to hit doorways
and walls and often does, not my guilt that when
I went to bed the other night I heard him cursing
and shouting, and I heard the aide who now lives
with us because he can’t be left alone, go downstairs,
and I fell asleep anyway, and my guilt when the aide

tells me the next morning that he was trying to get
to the bathroom and he fell and wet his pants
and she had to calm him down and change his clothes
and wash him, the way I did so many times
before she moved in and I am ashamed
that I have hired someone else to do
what I can’t manage any more. I don’t need
that foot machine to see how devastated and broken
the lines of my life have become, and no shoes, no shoes
to fix what is wrong.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan
from The Place I Call Home (NYQ Books)

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