Originally posted 2016. Revised.
Longing this morning
to trade back my boots
for the soft soles
I surrendered to get them.
I can’t feel the ground
when I walk in these.
Doctors try to tell me it’s
neuropathy from my diabetes.
They’re half right, I suspect;
certainly some shiny whiteness
is to blame and whether it’s the sugar
or the culture, it’s killing me
from the feeling parts up
to the thinking parts.
If I still had ancestors to ask about it
I would but they’re gone and they
never knew me anyway. Maybe
it’s for the best that I’m numb
and becoming more numb the older
I get. Fewer things terrify me now.
I didn’t belong to those earlier times.
I don’t feel I belong in the ones we’re in now.
If I am afraid of anything anymore
it’s of finding a place where I truly fit in.
I still want to trade these hard boots
for the moccasins I had as a kid,
the moccasins people used to say
I should trade for the boots I wear now —
good tall boots made to hold you
separate from and untouched by earth,
the way it is these days;
even when you are put into that earth
they put you in a box
and that box goes into another box.
How is it right that even when I’m dead
I’ll have to lie forever in that tiny space?
Colonized in death as in life,
forbidden the right to return
to my own soil. It’s why I long
to trade my boots for moccasins
and walk away to find my own resting place
somewhere; if my feet burn
the whole way there, at least
that pain will be of my choosing.
Even if the grave I choose
turns out to have been dug from lies,
at least it will be mine. Any debate
over whether I belong there
will not be mine to argue.
I’ll decay and disappear
like moccasins and boots do.
I’ll be as much of a myth one day
as I always knew I would be.
That’s the truth. I walk toward it
deliberately, my feet on fire
in boots not made for walking
or for feeling. I still feel
for now, if not as much
as I once did, which I guess
is a bit of a blessing, anyway.