Tying Shoes

by Russell Thornton

When my father’s shoelaces come untied, I do them up –
and he is unaware I have been there.

I kneel in my life to tie my own shoes,
I see him struggling to reach down, to work his hands,

I tie my shoes and his at the same time –
and so it occurs: with his laces I make knots and bows appear

like performing magic using my thumbs and fingertips,
like playing a virtuoso solo on a stringed instrument.

I have cursed him: cursed him for cuffing me on the head;
cursed him for kicking me repeatedly down a flight of stairs,

remembering his suede boots hitting my back and stomach –
then gone on to wear that style boots myself.

I tie his shoes for him now, and I see him in an elsewhere:
I imagine him having come through time

released into joy, and into endless old age;
he knows no bodily pain, his hands neither stiffen nor shake

as they might have begun to do in old age here,
they simply bewilder him as they go useless –

and now he finds he has done up his shoes easily,
and he is like a little boy who has just learned how,

and feels pleased and praised that he has passed this milestone –
but it is me, I am the tier of his shoes, I am his son.

— from Juniper Volume 1, Issue 3