Laura Sweeney


(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

I enter Lazy M Shoe Store, downtown Ames,
an autumn afternoon.  A few months before
I bought a pair of navy-blue Soft Soles
to compliment my fall attire.  I forgot to collect
the receipt.  My settlement, if all goes well,
covers physical therapy, prescriptions, equipment,
and shoes.  I scan the shelves for brands – Naturalizer,
no, Clarks, no.  My PTs scolded, “Women’s shoes
thrust out the bust and booty.  You can’t wear those,”
shook their heads at my cardboard thin soles.
I dumped my flip flops from India, dress shoes
from Mexico, velvet heels, bought in New York City
for New Year’s Eve, most of my pumps, but not
the red beaded sandals my sister brought from Costa Rica.
I try on heels anyway, pair after pair of sassy,
flamboyant, flirty heels, though I feel the ache
in my lower back. I’m checking out my calves
in the mirror when a gray-haired sales lady approaches.
“Just looking,” I say, “but something sturdy,
yet attractive?” Colombia, Dansko, Merrell, Born,
she suggests, placing a hand on my arm.
“Let me see how you walk.” I try to runway strut
but hobble, sit down on a bench, tell her my story:
T-Boned Fourth of July weekend, slammed
by an 85-year old man, swerved, blacked out.
When I came to, crawled out the passenger side.
No air bags.  No concussion, no scrapes, no blood.
A kindred spirit, the sales lady shares her accident:
hit by a teen driver, hospitalized, hip replacement.
Her husband settled everything, barely enough
to cover the bills.  I wish I had a husband to buffer
the ordeal.  I haven’t dated since the accident.
The sales lady takes a pair of shoes off the rack,
checks the brand.  It is a pleasure of being female
to own a variety of shoes, she says, placing a pair
back on the rack, but shoes don’t define a woman
as sexy or sophisticated. Any man who dates you
needs to accept you as is, the injury as part of who you are.
As we walk up to the register I sigh about my situation.
Maybe boyfriend shopping is like shoe shopping, I say.
Perhaps flair no longer matters, just sturdy support.
“Honey, by the time you’re done with all this, you won’t
need a husband!” the saleslady assures, rings up my shoes.

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About the Author

Laura Sweeney facilitates Writers for Life in central Iowa. She represented the Iowa Arts Council at the First International Teaching Artist’s Conference in Oslo, Norway.  Her poems and prose appear in fifty plus journals in the States, Canada, Britain, and China. Her recent awards include a residency at Sundress Publication’s Firefly Farms, a scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and participation in the Kaz Creative Nonfiction Conference