El Zapato

Not the wooden spoon,

primordial source

of sweetness and pain,

flying across the kitchen —

I barely bothered to duck.

Not my father undoing his belt —

I would be gone before he’d whack

the tabletop in a sample nalgada,

but my mother’s shoe, El Zapato:

its black leather soft as the mouth

of an old, toothless dog, black laces

crisscrossing its long tongue

all the way up, heavy sole and thick

square high heel. Shoe from a special

old lady store, shoe from olden days,

puritanical shoe, bruja shoe, peasant

shoe, Gypsy shoe, shoe for zapateo

on the grave of your enemy, shoe

for dancing the twisted, bent

over dance of los viejitos.

Not the pain, humiliating clunk

of leather striking upside my head,

but her aim, the way I knew that even

if I ran out the kitchen door,

down the back stairs and leapt

the fence, when I glanced over my

shoulder El Zapato, prototype

of the smart bomb, would be there,

its primitive but infallible radar

honed in on my back. Not the shoe

for suicidal anger of come out of hiding

or I’ll throw myself out the window.

Not the shoe for carpet-chewing

Hitler anger — the throwing herself

down, taking an edge of rug

between her teeth anger. But the shoe

for everyday justice she could unlace,

whip off and throw faster than Paladin

draws his gun, shoe that could hunt

me down like the Texas Rangers,

even if it took years, even if she died

while she was throwing her shoe,

even if she managed to throw it

from the ramparts of heaven, the way

she threw it from a third story window

while I stood half a block away, laughing

at her with my friends, thinking,

it could never hit me from this far,

until I stood suddenly alone,

abandoned by my cowardly friends,

alone in the frozen cross-eyed knowledge

that El Zapato, black, smoking with righteousness,

was slowly, inevitably spinning toward my forehead.

Richard Garcia

For several years Richard Garcia was poet-in-residence at the Long Beach Museum of Art and at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where he conducted poetry and art workshops for hospitalized children. He has won many awards for his poetry including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently lives in South Carolina and teaches in the Antioch University MFA program and at the College of Charleston. “El Zapato” is from his collection Rancho Notorious, published by BOA Editions Ltd. © and is reprinted by permission.

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Oh My God, that is brilliant. I LOVE THIS POEM.

Sounds a lot like Pablo Neruda's odes.

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