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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Them good old boots

I took them out today, a chilly October morning
They’ve grown older and sadder
With deeper grooves on their brown faces.
But I’m sure they’d love to crush crunchy leaves again
And get cozy in the Bladen County library or Laundry Pal today
And in Our Lady of the Snows on Sunday
Them good old boots I’ve had for ten years.

Now I can’t help but think back…
When we first met, they were in a glass cage
In a little shop in Chisinau, along with other imported leathery goods
They stared are me (or I stared at them)
Brown (my color). With laces and belt-like straps on outer sides
One-and-a-half-inch heels, and a tag of $70 which made me choke.
I turned around and pretended to look at the other goods on display
Hats, coats, wallets, purses, belts from Istanbul or Moscow…
With $200 in my pocket as a UN volunteer in this tiny land called Moldova

(Forever squeezed between the Ukraine and Romania
you could hardly see it on the map.)

I thought I should go without my usual apples, pears, peaches, grapes
So I gathered the courage to ask to see them
“Italy,” “38,” it said on their soles and I smiled
“Perfect!” I thought (the size, of course)
I tried them on and they fit perfectly well
I walked in them and they walked me perfectly well
And taking a deep breath, I reached deep into my pocket
Fearful that I would change my mind.

Since then them good old boots walked me well
I got them a matching leather jacket and a leather cap in Istanbul
They took me to the mosques and palaces and the ruins of Troy
Then to Odessa, by the Black Sea on a windy Easter
(The shells we gathered are still with me this day;
The hunger I felt when we couldn’t find an open restaurant
is still a lesson to learn.)
Then to Brashov after a six-hour train ride
And a sleepless night in a smelly hotel in Bucharest
And to Bran to see Count Dracula’s little palace on a hill
(Where an elderly staff scolded me for opening the squeaky rickety window
to take a picture of the town.)
Then to a Hungarian ranch, a wine cellar
And to the Baroque house of sculptress Margit Kovacs.

In Manila, them good old boots slept long
But I woke them up one rainy November
And foolishly let them take in water
(They probably cried for the punishment they didn’t deserve
for they had served me well for two years.)
So I took them to my favorite cobbler who treated them well
He sewed and shined them, and they looked like new again
And they were glad (or I was glad).

Two years after, I took them good old boots to Cavite
Where they must have loved the grounds of De La Salle U.
And the music of the chimes, the songs of the crickets
And the frogs and the fireflies on our way home in the evenings.
One day I heard the usual cry, “Shiiiiiine!” and I thought it was time
For them good old boots to shine
The cobbler’s eyes widened when he saw them good old boots
And really gave them a good shine
So I gave him more than the usual amount
(Thereafter the cobbler would knock and ask, “Shine?”
I think he liked them good old boots, don’t you think?)

Two years after again, I took them good old boots to tapings
For the Knowledge Channel
We sure did shiver in the studio from dusk to dawn!
So the following year, I thought we’d go to a warmer place
But Mia-rayon in Bukidnon is about a thousand feet above sea level!
Them good old boots walked me down the foggy dirt road
(A witness to cockfights, billiard games, hog slaughtering…
and children without shoes and communist rebels without faces.)

Them good old boots didn’t see action again until last year
When I told them to pack up for the U.S. of A.
Although I’d gotten a new pair
(I’m sure they must’ve felt jealous then.)
Now I’m thinking how far more them good old boots could go
Would they step on snowy or arid grounds?
Would they take me to the Alps? To the Pyrenees?
To the great pyramids? To the Great Wall of China?
Or to the land where Jesus walked?
Nothing’s certain for sure
Except for them good old boots to get going
Even without me and my cajoling.


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