The Red Shoes
by Theodora Goss
There are days
when I too want to cut off my feet.
Days on which I desire too much, on which I am filled
with longing for what I don’t have, and may never.
When I feel that black hole in my chest
(like a manhole missing its cover)
into which things fall: my phone, the alarm clock,
the bulletin board on the wall,
the to-do list on my desk,
all my best intentions, and I think,
who needs feet? Especially
feet in red shoes.
Once you put the red shoes on,
you can never take them off.
I put them on when I was fifteen
and first fell in love,
and first wanted to live
anywhere but where I was living.
I thought, Let me be wild. Let me dance, just a little.
The red shoes never take you anywhere sensible.
They will take you to Paris
when your credit card is maxed out.
That, of course, is when I first wanted to become
a writer. One of the incorrigible.
But sometimes you get tired
of dancing everywhere: down the street,
on the subway.
And you think, I could just take a hatchet to them.
Karen did it, and she’s up in heaven
somewhere, where good girls go.
She no longer wants anything.
She stopped writing long ago.
But what about Hans? Because he had a pair as well.
I suspect he’s tap-dancing
in the hell writers make for themselves,
red shoes flashing (his had spangles).
He could never give up desire,
no matter how hard he tried.
He was ugly, and therefore wanted everything.
(As we are all ugly, if not outside, then inside,
all ducklings who only occasionally
recognize our swan parentage.)
He tried very hard to be good,
but kept falling in love,
which is a disadvantage.
So here I am, red shoes on (they never come off):
sometimes they are sandals, sometimes rain boots.
And I don’t know what to do with them except keep walking,
which is also dancing, because although I may tire,
(The illustration is She Danced Through the Dark Wood by Katherine Cameron.)