This poem appears in the anthology, Red Indian Road West. I cannot tell you how much this poem touched me. I just finished a piece that I tried to imbue with some of the same real emotion and complexity attached to these words. Now I need to go back and rework that poem. This is one of the reasons that poetry is so important to me.
The first few years she wore them
I didn’t even notice the leather’s soft tan,
and the buckskin laces roughly looped.
By the time I paid attention, her feet
had already curved the shoes inward,
weather had toughened the soft leather,
and one lace had broken short.
Then I asked where she got those shoes
and she said from the Indian store
down in Mountain View.
Some other time, another year, I asked
the name of the Indian store
that sold handmade shoes like hers,
but she said it went out of business
and no store sold mocs with vodka
splatters and Yosemite dirt ground in
with a little tamale pie, so I couldn’t
buy shoes like hers anyway.
Last summer, laughing and crying
together, in the campground
at Lake Mendocino, on the night
before her youngest son’s wedding
while the men drank beer and talked
of politics and sports,
I told her how much I really, really liked
those old shoes of hers. So
she took them off and gave them to me.
Those beat-up, raggedy Kaibab moccasins
I wear are stained and worn rough
by hard years in my friend’s life.
I wear them when I need her courage.