Socks, Shoes


Socks, Shoes

He had learned from his mother,
whose same fingers managed
to knead dough
and flatten
sun-dried cloth, easing out rumple with such calm
authority that the fabric
wanted to bow repeatedly
into folds
just as bread rose
to greet her,
that order was part of a recipe for
a good life, that self-respect included
respect for one’s lowliest objects, that these too shared
the same sun, had their proper–that is, rightly given–
space–like prayer five times
a day, like the direction of
one’s kneel and once planted
in that direction, like the placement set
by the red wool rug whose woven temple showed
the forehead where
to touch, and too, the toes,
and so,
though order had fled from his life
like teeth
and that bulk he used to carry
at his arms, the small soft fold
at his belly, and the certainty that used to warm
his forehead when it felt the brush of that red wool as sure
as the heat
from his mother’s breads;  still, as the swordsman waited
behind his mask,
he thanked God that his hands were as
free for this moment as birds whose wings alone
have been clipped but not their legs diced
together and gently rolled one sock
into one shoe, the other sock into
the other, so that they might not
be lost,
so that they would be there
when next needed,
so that all would be right
in their world, a world he still
could care for, honor.


This is a draft poem for Bjorn Rudberg’s prompt on With Real Toads to write a poem that includes a recipe.  It is some poem in a bunch written for April 2015 National Poetry Month.  (There were a couple of days of writing two.)  (I mention this in case I don’t make it to the end!)

This poem was inspired by a photograph by Gilles Peress in a 1999 New Yorker magazine taken in Bosnia of a corpse of a person executed in the fighting there in the 90s.  The corpse was a man who died next to his shoes, where each sock was rolled into the shoe.  In the case of that photo, it was not clear whether the man was one of the last Bosnians killed by the Serbs, or a Serb killed by the Bosnians in the early days of retribution. In my poem, I was thinking also of the killings undertaken by ISIS in more recent days.

My own picture was made by me and not a very valid reflection of the Peress; I’m not totally happy with it, but this is April, and have to move on.  All rights reserved.



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15 Comments on “Socks, Shoes”

  1. gillena Says:


    Much love…

  2. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    It’s very touching, the way you pile up the details of his background and then the careful placement of socks and shoes.

  3. Sanaa Says:

    This is amazing..! 😀
    An enjoyable read!

  4. hedgewitch Says:

    I can’t exactly call this an enjoyable read, having read your notes, but it is a very human one, full of the things we love, full of the taste and touch and feel of love and life, sweetest as it is being taken from us–and of how small gestures of control may be all we have–in a cynic’s eyes, that sock rolling would seem a futile grasping, a last hopeless desire to cling to what we are about to lose, but here you infuse it with dignity, peace and reverence for an order that could, that ought to exist, and that in the heart’s last beat, still does. I found this very moving in a gentle and loving way, despite the subject it deals with.It is a very fine poem.

  5. This is so moving. It puts humanity into an insane act.

  6. Great work, Karin…intense and I love the use of the birds.

  7. The way a habit follows us into even the worst situation.. or a faint hope that you would use your shoes again, a human touch when humanity has left. Wonderful

  8. M Says:

    grim, but clear, and necessary ~

  9. Brendan Says:

    Such tender ferocity in this … I thought immediately of the pathos of those filmed going under the ISIS sword; the tenderness of rolling one’s socks inside one’s shoes, still close to that mother, sitting on the final fatal shore. Incredible.

  10. Marian Says:

    Gosh Karin, my mind was going to a much more gentle place when reading your poem. Your explanation of its inspiration punched me. I was thinking of my own very orderly father, linked forever to a much-less-orderly woman. For better or for worse. Love this line: “order was part of a recipe for
    a good life”
    Not everyone follows that recipe. 🙂

  11. Vivid picture. Tenderness and violence.

  12. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    So much of what we write these days is informed by the awful history unfolding around us on a daily basis. Your detailed description here of a personal history is told with great compassion – the carefully rolled socks are a hopeful sign, all the more poignant once the source of your inspiration is known.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Kerry–I should probably change the title of the poem to make what it is “about” a bit clearer. In the whirlwind of these April draft days, I find it very difficult to spend much time on titles, but this is one where another title, making a more explicit reference to a scene of execution, would probably be useful.

      (In my mind, everything is always very clear, but I appreciate that that is not always the case with for the reader!) k.

      On Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 11:20 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  13. Kim Nelson Says:

    Your character sketches, both of mother and protagonist, are vivid and full. Reads like a novel. Left me wanting more.

  14. Jim Says:

    Wonderful, k. Besides the problem of getting mixed up, the fellow would avoid putting the wrong sock on his right foot.
    Not counting crows today but I did count periods. One.

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