new zealand electronic poetry centre

Michael Harlow

online works


The Feet and a Fit of Shoes

         In the closet a congregation of shoes. Row on row of twins, they are
scuffling in the dark. Of walk-about-and-all-round, they conjure
dreams. They say, We have been waiting for years, across the back of
the century, we have been waiting for the right time, for the right way.

         Their tongues twitch. Like coins their button eyes rub against each
other. In any chink of light, they shine.
         In the roadways, in the open fields, behind closed doors, it is now the
feet begin to assemble.

         Everywhere we are orderly, they say, sliding into place; after all, we
are the feet. When marching, we stride to numbers, right then left,
counting cadence is our song, left then right, then turnabout. We
queue against the rush hour, and we mark time and time again we are
like a fine metronome at rest. And we are fond of dreaming, yes, of
cobbles, of the giant walls of steps.

         If you listen you can hear us rehearse the alphabets of travel; small
syllables of sound on the way, hello, goodbye, to where we are going,
and back again. Sometimes, you see, we stand altogether at ease for that
blissful moment.

         And of course we remember how to lean against the legs of tables,
and then the green rain falling. And we do not forget a single footfall,
not one; nor the steep fall of a rising hill, the long tunnel of a trouser
leg. In a certain slant of light, we remember the resurrection of a
phantom-foot, and we shiver with the fever of expectation.
         And look: you can see how walking on air is our silky pleasure.

         And now in the city, in the box-like houses, in the tall-rise flats, in
quiet vestibules and waiting rooms, the shoes begin to stir; they begin
to drum and the pavements hum.

         The people begin to wake. In the drowsy houses they wake their
hands; carefully, they wake the space behind their eyes. They feel the
light swarm to the windows, opening the keyholes of doors. They stir
at ankle, at knee, in the wiry thews of the groin. Carefully, they pick
through the bedclothes, through the bars of shadow that begin to walk
across their legs. They send signals along the main trunk.

         And they listen . . . for the small drum of footsteps on the march. And
they lie there in their beds, and they whisper . . . where? They try to
remember; flexing one limb then another and another, they try to
remember . . . why?

         And they wait: for the ghost-feet to appear. And waiting, suddenly
the black holes of their mouths collapse.



From Cassandra’s Daughter (Auckland UP, 2005)
Michael Harlow

Last updated 24 March, 2005