Don’t imagine your shoes are innocent…

Stephen Kuusisto, Letters to Borges

Don’t imagine your shoes are innocent. They know the moist, ineluctable whispers of the unconscious. And don’t imagine that just because pharmaceuticals have been pushed as the cure for depression there’s no such thing as the unconscious. Freud and Jung had it right and even your pharmacist knows it, knows it because his shoes are dark and moist. Even the dancing pump and the foam filled cross-fit shoes of leisure are filled with half starved archetypes. The murderer knows his shoes. The priest. The politician. I take no pleasure saying so, I”d prefer innocence encasing our precious feet.

In her novel “The Cold Song” Linn Ullman writes of Jenny, an aging socialite who’s preparing for a party in her honor:

“She looked at the shoes, paired up like well-behaved children on the floor by her bed. Such pretty shoes, the color of nectarines, from the sixties, she remembered the store where she had bought them.”

Ullman knows. The shoes look pretty but they’re steeped by the drains and threads of the unconscious and they’re not well behaved children at all. And we know about those stores from the sixties don’t we?


Shoe, I have not loved you with my whole heart;
Truss, I fear you’re coming…

Emergence of old age.

Dante: “we call shaggy all words that are ornamental.”

Ornaments of this aging vulgar tongue…

Pray the noblest words alone remain in the sieve…

For Dante, language was new—it was his language, the juicy vernacular. English ain’t so new anymore. “Make it new, make it new,” he cries, waving his stick. That “he” is me.

Spoon me some glottal stops, shout me some noble ballate.

Had me a literary education. Learned about recitations charmingly delivered. But at night I kicked frozen turds on the icy street. In those days I talked to anyone. Fable fable.

Gettin’ old. Just want to rest my head on the bosom of moral philosophy. Ain’t that the way of it? Start and end with moldy books and sinister shoes.


Imelda Marcos had one thousand six hundred pairs of shoes and a lot of blood on her hands. The unconscious won’t let you “buy out.” As for those shoes, Imelda’s, they were telephones to the torture chambers.


I went to the shoe store and placed my feet in the measuring pans. My feet transmitted a sudden and stark message—“we feel shy down here; we’re under examination. Please get us back inside our shoes.” I wondered about this. The tragedy of it. “When,” I wondered, “had my feet learned to be timid?” “It’s the whole damn system” I told them. “Capitalism has taught you to feel incomplete.” But when your feet are farouche the whole body jumps that way. The temporal lobe said: “I too don’t wish to be known.”

I really wanted Mozart just then. Anything other than the grey neural distress that emanated from my feet and circled outward to the farthest ring of my skull. “Jesus,” I said, “you’re just buying some shoes.” But the temporal lobe said: “There’s no such thing as just. Would you just saw off your hand?” So I was forced to conclude, encouraged to conclude, the body’s anguish is like intense moonlight.

The shoe moment helped me recognize what my autistic friends already know. There’s no “me”—there are only the eager, bristling, dancing, component parts. Now ask yourself how you get through the day?

Oh my feet, you moth eaten grand seigneurs, keep talking. It’s OK.

You can have your shoes back even if they’re not without red dreams.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: