American Life in Poetry: Column 496

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

One of Grant Wood’s earliest paintings is of a pair of old shoes, and it hangs in the art museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Wood grew up. Here’s a different kind of still life, in words, from Jim Daniels, who lives in Pittsburgh. The shoes we put on our feet gradually become like the person wearing them.

Work Boots: Still Life

Next to the screen door
work boots dry in the sun.
Salt lines map the leather
and laces droop
like the arms of a new-hire
waiting to punch out.
The shoe hangs open like the sigh
of someone too tired to speak
a mouth that can almost breathe.
A tear in the leather reveals
a shiny steel toe
a glimpse of the promise of safety
the promise of steel and the years to come.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem reprinted from Show and Tell, Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2003, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Press. Copyright ©2003 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Jim Daniels’ most recent book of poems is Birth Marks, BOA Editions, Ltd., 2013. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.