My Feet Over My Head
by Eric Paul Shaffer

When I was little, I could not grasp the distinction
between my shoes and my feet. I called both pairs

“feet.” I once said, “I need to learn to tie my feet.”
When I wanted to go and both seemed nowhere

near, I’d cry, “I can’t find my feet.” When my sole
wore through the rubber, I’d tell my mother, “I need

new feet.” The heels, arches, and toes at the end
of my legs were still what I walked on, bare or not,

and I could fly down the sidewalk as fast as I needed,
with or without, swiftly pursued or simply exuberant.

Once, after we swam a creek, my brother, grinning
demon that he was, snatched my feet from my hands

and launched my twin soles skyward, laces knotted,
tongues spinning and eccentric. I had tied the laces

tightly, in a newly-mastered bow. I was amazed
to follow their loopy flight, and when I saw my feet

over my head, suspended, sparking on black lines
drooping from leaning, weathered poles and bellied

earthward beneath gray sky, I could see the new
height required scoldings, spankings, and shopping.

Staring up, barefoot on that dirt road, I knew then
I needed to know my shoes from my feet since one

pair shod the sky, and I was going somewhere else.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 19, Issue 1.

Eric Paul Shaffer is the author of five books of poetry, including Lahaina Noon (2005), Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen (2001), and Portable Planet (2000). He received the 2002 Elliot Cades Award for Literature, a 2006 Ka Palapala Po’okela Book Award for the book Lahaina Noon, and the 2009 James M. Vaughan Award for Poetry.

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