Thirteen Ways of Remembering Red Baby Shoes

Thirteen Ways of Remembering Red Baby Shoes

His head was a sunny hill that knelt before her
and also (though he was the emperor of children’s footwear)
before the beautiful red shoes.

Garnets hold no lights
nor darknesses
compared to the deep
red shoes.

Her feet were little clumps of dough
made human by
red shoes.

The red shoes stared up
at the world; the world
could not stop
looking back.

There are red shoes with sharp
heels; there are red shoes cut
on a bias like one
lipsticked lip; there are shoes
that movies are made of, that spin
ruby-starred dreams.

Such shoes are perfectly valid; they too
mark their rosy rhythms
on the street.

But these are not the red shoes
of which I speak.

The voice of even small red shoes
cannot be silenced.

The pulse in a young child’s thumbs,
fingertips, fits one moment into the next
like the stitching
of first ever shoes, threaded red. 

Some joke that big shoes mean
a good understanding,

But to understand little shoes that are the dark red of even
the unbitter heart, the wearer must bend
to their very soles.

What steer gave its life
for the red shoes? What bull, what sweet-eyed
long-lashed cow?  their tongues as tuneful as any offered
to Ulysses’s gods–

The aiglets of the red shoes
are as dark with sorrow
as sorrow.
The laces try to tie off those vacuums
in a weave
of ox blood.

How is the heart so heavy
when somewhere walk
red shoes?

The red shoes were not cherry red, which is not the red
of cherries, meaning that the red shoes
were cherry; the rest of the world
their stone.

The red shoes seemed to
understand this, or maybe they just
didn’t worry about it.

Oh red shoes even tied tight
you were as soft as a hand crossing the street,
as firm as a hand

In the whole of life,
there was only one pair
of red shoes.
Somewhere a sunny hill still kneels before them
one or both knees bent.



Another drafty poem with my drafty drawing, my 12th for this April 2016 National Poetry Month.  This one was written for Grace’s wonderful prompt on With Real Toads to write something inspired by Wallace Stevens.  Some of the Stevens’ poems that I thought of writing this was “Anecdote of the Jar,” “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” and, of course, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”  Again so sorry for the length.   Thanks for your patience!

PS have edited slightly since first posting. 

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31 Comments on “Thirteen Ways of Remembering Red Baby Shoes”

  1. robert okaji Says:

    Love this, particularly “The voice of even small red shoes / cannot be silenced.”

  2. Mama Zen Says:

    Wow. I particularly like the way you brought this full circle. Excellent, K.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, MZ–it’s a little long and I can see places maybe I should cut, but don’t quite have the will at the moment! I’ve been really enjoying your work this month, but I always do enjoy it. K.

  3. Grace Says:

    Each stanza is unique and lovely to read K ~ I could not choose a favourite as each one tells a story – dark, colorful, more than just red baby shoes ~

    Thanks for linking up with Sunday’s Challenge & wishing you happy week ~

  4. Jim Says:

    Fun reading, k. Lots of insight as to kids and their shoes here. The line I like best was about the eyelets: “The aiglets of the red shoes are as dark with sorrow as sorrow.” Poor things. But they were a bugger for the little one until he/she learned to tie them, probably age five.

  5. I think it’s very hard to write a good ’13 ways’ poem. You’ve done justice to the concept. Love the variety, tenderness and triumph (and # 3 is great!).

  6. Wonderful how you have thought of those aspects of those red shoes.. Somehow those memories are so tightly tied to childhood with both cheerfulness and sorrow.

  7. CC Champagne Says:

    You really bring those shoes to life… (PS. in your notes you seem to have already started NaPoWriMo 2016… Just thought I’d mention it)

  8. M Says:

    I don’t think it’s too long. I read verse VI as “the vice” first, which gives it a different, lingering flavor. We’re all tired :). Hang in there, this is a wonderful pen ~

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. I need a little time. My main thing is I think I should take out the ox blood line. I had another verse using something similar but different, and the color I’m aiming for is ox blood so kept it in, but honestly, it makes it awfully long, and probably isn’t very clear. I had to do a fair amount of cutting already, so for the moment am just keeping. k.

  9. The whole piece works together and yet each one could stand alone. It has become a long month, but one of such amazing poetry. Your poem isn’t too long. I am so amazed by all you have in it!

  10. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    This was a gorgeous read!

  11. This is brilliant. ILOVE this. (So trite, I know but true). I am envious of your poem and those red shoes.

  12. Helen Says:

    Thirteen ~ “lucky” is how readers of your poem will feel! I tried, honestly, to choose a favorite verse. Impossible. The drawing is pretty spectacular too.

  13. Sumana Roy Says:

    I’m awestruck……& aww-struck @ no. 3…

  14. hedgewitch Says:

    This becomes more Stevens-y (and also more ManicdDaily) as it progresses, and loses the early feel of shadowing a form, becoming its own thing in your longer stanzas–I want to almost say ‘interjections’–which twist the image this way and that before returning ti to true, to small, after magnifying it into various sorrows and conundrums, like every sacrificed bovine or other being we don’t even think about as we use up–like all your work, k, very human, very perceptive, and distinctively unique.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Thanks. You know, I didn’t have this clear of a title in mind when I started so I didn’t know how to give hints of what the poem was going to be about. Later, I thought, why not just be frank with the title? And I think if I’d thought of that initially, I may have felt a bit freer in the beginning.

      I also had Emperor of little leathers, but that seemed just too weird. I kept picturing whips and thongs! k.

      On Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 10:49 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


      • hedgewitch Says:

        LMAO at whips and thongs–yes, not exactly something that blends into the Stevens concept of a stately order, there. ;_) (RE: title–yes, amazing how much effect they have…I wish I’d used both a different title and a different illustration for mine, as I think it led many astray.)

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        I recycle so much lately and have to be more careful than I often am especially since my illustrations all tend towards the cute in ways that the poems don’t! I’ll revisit yours with that in mind. K.

  15. Love, love, love # 13.

  16. Sanaa Rizvi Says:

    This is so utterly beautiful…. so innovative & charming 😀
    To think someone could describe shoes so passionately!
    Loved it 😀

  17. I went through every stanza, telling myself, “This is my favorite.” Then, “No, this one!” After five stanzas, I gave up trying to pick favorites. I love the red, the placement of it, the memories those shoes carry… Okay, so I might have falling rather deeply for the 10th stanza. Wow.

  18. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    Please accept a standing ovation from my side of the globe.

    At around about stanza IV, I thought I should start listing my favourites, but each part is a stylish masterpiece in its own right. You have imbued your object with multiple associations, meanings and contrasts. For me, the humble nature of the child’s red shoes shines through the tender toil of the poet. Outstanding work.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Well, thanks so much, Kerry. You are very sweet. It’s been a very challenging but fun month and I have so appreciate all the prompts arranged at Toads and the inspiration of the wonderful poems all have been writing. K.

  19. This is a truly spectacular write. I enjoyed and admired each verse and love that the topic so variously described was red baby shoes.

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