Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Red Shoes Project

[The Red Shoes illustration by Annelle Livingston]

My Muse deserted me when Annell Livingstone, of Somethings I Think About  invited me to submit a poem for her Red Shoes Project. Although I totally lived  the story of woman's creative voice being suppressed, by society, by teachers, by Church, by marriage, by struggle, by financial hardship, by single motherhood, by everyone else's needs coming before my own, it seemed I couldn't come up with a poem I felt would be up to the degree of talent the other women involved would and, indeed, did display.

Playing with the topic, I tossed off the following poem, about a time in my life, and an afternoon, that I remember vividly as a turning point in my life, the first time I realized that I had escaped all of the prisons, and that my life was now, finally, mine, to live as I pleased. It was a brand new and very astounding thought. I was twenty-seven. I still had a long way to go, and I survived more shipwrecks after that day. But it was a turning towards a life that was mine, and a return of my creativity  - that voice  an oppressive marriage had completely silenced for eight years.

I simply could not come up with another poem, and finally submitted this one. Annell generously reminded me that her vision was "to hear all the different women's voices, each one a facet of the jewel, each a necessary part of the puzzle."

 Some of the other poets involved in the project have posted their submissions recently and they are as wonderful and varied as the sunset.  I will include some of Annell's explanation of her vision  at the end of this poem. I am so honored to have been invited to take part with some of the best poets writing in the blogosphere.  So grateful to have people actually reading what I write, something I never take for granted, which always blows me away.

I have never been a shoe person, never very stylish. My clothes run to comfort, my shoe purchases to a pair of running shoes every few years. So the illustration that most resonated with me are the sturdy shoes above, seen from the rear.........Annell pointed out that, if we look carefully, we can see the tongues have been cut out. Well, that made them perfect!!!!!!

On Women and Shoes

I know about women and shoes,

but I seem to be
missing that gene,
so any poem written by me
on that topic
has to be about not-shoes.

What I wear on my feet:
for slipping on
to run the dogs in and out
and down the street,
calf-high mud-boots
for heading to the barn
in rainy weather,
a battered pair
of running shoes
with clunky laces,
that have to be
wide enough
for comfort
-rather like
a flat-bottomed boat-
to accomodate
my egg-sized ankle cyst,
and which I replace
when the soles fall off
every three years,
give or take,
whether they need it or not.

(Note: this month
the bottom sole
of my left shoe
was actually flapping
before I noticed
it was Time.)

I have a daughter
who wears
a fascinating array
of footwear,
including combat boots
for Kicking Ass,
cool strappy things
for dressing up,
anything from platform heels
to fitness shoes,
and all that lies

She did not get
her sense of style
from me.

When we go out,
beside her
tall, beautiful elegance,
I feel like the frizzy-haired
Witch Down the Lane,
in my baggy sweatshirt
and only pair
of jeans.

Yesterday I met
an old hippy
over in Coombs.
Our laughing eyes
recognized each other.
(It must be something about
the Frizzy Hair:) )

He told me
he was in Haight Ashbury
Back in the Day,
that he wore
thigh-high leather boots,
with buckles,
in which he promenaded.

Back in the Day
I wore polyester
and pushed a buggy
with three little kids in it
inside the strait jacket
of a conventional marriage
where I didn't fit,
with my big unwieldy
unconventional spirit,
that kept bumping up against
the edges and the confines
I was kept in,
till the madwoman finally
burst out
from her prison
and was no longer mad.

In those days,
while in desperation
I pushed my buggy,

I watched,
with awe and envy,
the benign, coolly-dressed and
totally FREE-spirited beings
wandering smilingly
up and down Fourth Avenue,
wondering how
they learned
to be so free,
to be so much Themselves,
while I still felt
such a non-person,
trying on a role
that didn't fit.

I just missed
that freedom bus
by five seconds,
pushing my buggy along
a parallel street
just one block down.
When I broke free,
I remember pushing
my giggling babies
in that same buggy,
as I hippety-hopped
down the hill,
laughing and leaping,
heading us all
towards a happier life.

I made up for
missing the 60's
in coffeehouses
in the 80's, and in
the Land of Refugees
from the 60's
in Tofino
in the 90's.

My spirit never tried
to stuff itself back
into that little box

The only red shoes
that ever spoke to me
were Dorothy's,
on that journey she made
away from
and back to herself,
where she found
she had always
had the power inside her,
and found her home
where she had started out.

I have worn out
a lot of running shoes
this lifetime,
walking through
some of
the most beautiful
in the world.

All I ever needed
was a pair
that fit me,
that can carry me
into the wilderness
I love.

A pair
I kick off
at the door
when I come home
slide back into
every time
I'm heading out.

How many more pairs
and pathways
are there left me?
There's no knowing,
but there's one thing
I know for sure:when music
from those years
calls to my spirit,
I can still kick them off
and dance a lick or two
across my empty room.

Here are Annell's words about the Red Shoes Project:

"The red shoes are a symbol of creativity for women and our legacy. It is this legacy that The Red Shoes artists book project addresses.  I have asked sixteen artists to join me in The Red Shoe project. The writings of these women are diverse in language, style, approach and form. They each seem to be remaking, renewing, renaming, re-experiencing and recasting old ideas about the Red Shoes, and the meaning in their lives."

To find out more about Annell's Red Shoes Project, please visit her site at Somethings I think About


  1. I, so, remember this poem, Sherry, your candidness about your apparent "no love of shoes" and the wonderful use of metaphor in the piece. For me it's quite an honour to be included in Annell's book project.


  2. Oh I so love this...the freedom of kicking off shoes, of comfort and contentment..finding self with and without baby it holds us, defines us - but is not the real nice to read all these wonderful pieces...I will post mine this truly has been a fun project to be a part of ....bkm

  3. I heard an interview with a reformed 'con man' the other day that mentioned how he would pick out his victims based on what he could tell from the shoes they were wearing. I would suspect that he would find you too real and too rooted in your own reality before moving on to some other 'client'.

  4. I love this poem, Sherry! Not being a shoe person either -sticking to my Mary Janes, thank you- I do appreciate their use as metaphor in this piece. And I applaud the last wonderful lines...I too "can still kick them off and dance a lick or two across my empty room"...:)


I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!