Literary Yard

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‘The Value Of Old Shoes’ and other poems by Leslie McGriff

By: Leslie McGriff

Old Shoes

For Derek Walcott

I imagine
they wrapped
your body
in white sheets
around and around
arms still
at your sides
the fabric delicate
and lightweight
leaving you open
to the atmosphere
your head they cased
in an urn of words
and poured syllables
over your eyes
so that on the journey
home you could do
what you do best
make the world
fall in love
with itself
I imagine everyone
bowed their heads
whispered alleluia
when they lowered you
into the earth
and covered the ground
knowing that
in those final moments
you were giving us
your last


Black Lives Matter

Those boys’ eyes
were supposed to look
those men’s hearts
were preparing to speak
instead they were given
darkness and silence
a snapped shut life
that had been so open
they weren’t afraid
to walk in the light of
a place that told them they didn’t belong

Witness this:
they were here
flesh, pain, mouth, song
mothers mourn
and teach us how to lose
ourselves and
still try to make this
cold lonely land our home


The Value Of Old Shoes

Street cleaners
have orders
to clean this place
where the man left his waste
get rid of the cans, the newspapers
the shopping cart, the baseball cap
with the company’s name
that wouldn’t hire him

On the top of the pile
his old shoes with the soles torn off
like a dog had attacked them
and left the memory of
what it was like to be ripped apart
in the misshapen mass

We heard that before
he was taken away
he tried to put those shoes
on his swollen, bloody feet
so that he could walk
backwards into
the life that
he left

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