Poem of the Week | January 08, 2018

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Anne Starling. Following a peripatetic upbringing as a military brat, Starling settled in north Florida. She earned a BA and MA in English, owned a used bookstore, and later became a social worker. Her husband is a jazz guitarist and professor. Long ago, she had work published in Cottonwood Review and Kalliope; also, when she was a teenager, Seventeen paid her $25.00 for a poem. She doesn’t know if it was ever published, mostly because her family moved from the West Coast to the East Coast for her senior year of high school, and she lost track. She only remembers the title, “Mud River,” and this: where once I dragged my fingers until they didn’t look like fingers anymore.

Shoe Store

Seeking sturdy white oxfords
for a special occasion. At 13 months,
he hadn’t been walking long.
Nearby, a woman with two
children, sounding harried,
determined. Yet
drawn by the light
children’s voices, he carefully
stepped to the aisle’s end and
peered around.
One cried out softly: A baby!
before the shoe-fitting
murmurings resumed. Only
hearing welcome, he
came out of hiding—one arm
still clutching the display pole,
a wide smile on his face.
The woman’s blank glance
before she steeled herself
to ignore the interruption.
The moment it took him
to turn away, having overcome
shyness for nothing.

Author’s Note:

“Shoe Store” resulted from a persistent, often pang-inducing memory of a small incident. I guess it’s about very young people’s conviction that they are the center of the universe, and parents’ feelings when they witness their much-loved children start to lose this innocence. In a way, it’s about the harried shopper resisting interruption, too. The world’s a shoe store.
More personally, the poem marks a moment when three of my son Nate’s lifelong character traits revealed themselves, in convergence: his sweet amiability, perceptiveness, and intense stoicism. It took the writing to make this apparent.