"Lost Shoes & Broken Hearts" Part Two
Poems by Catherine Owen
Photography and Introduction by Karen Moe
When I rounded the point in Quintana Roo, I was shocked by what of course was there. Even in my wildest cynicism, I had never expected what I found when I crossed the threshold from fantasy to reality, from what is believed to what is rarely thought about. And, despite the horror of what I came upon, there was, somehow, in the sea-tossed mash of neon oranges, yellows and greens, cherry-sucker reds, purples as sweet as Kool-Aid, white utensils manufactured to appear eternally clean and turquoise that mocked the brilliance of a tropical sea, beauty. The shock I felt was one of awe. It was as though, as I lifted my head and turned to face the other side of a Cancun Disneyland, the heavens of our dystopia had opened and light, divine in its unabashed candor, had poured down upon me. I had crossed the line from what is believed in to what really is. I had come upon truth. In all of its flagrant, irreverent, glory.
And what’s up with all of the shoes?
Where do we begin mother?
With false flowers, of course.
With a pink reminiscent of nothing in nature.
With a criss-cross sorrow that fits the pudgy joy.
Where do we end child?
On this sand un-wilded by trash, all the glittering bits
of nothingness with which we made our lives.
On the edge of stone and plastic.
On the way to a future where our ghost feet have left
Capsize me, darling.
And always, this little shoot, a sprout of what if sent bursting beside your casually torn bindings.
Nothing lasts forever, but these human things
have no delusion of even weeks.
They accept their transience, the way they become garbage so fast.
Is this sick?
Is this health?
Dearheart, you have no more use.
Only the way you stopped running down that cliff, or the posture in which you were washed up on the beach.
That pose of non-defiance.
How many years will you stay like this, positioned beside the green that lives & dies & lives.
A man's comfort spins the world.
Even wrecked, the slipper fits its maker, its wearer.
The companions at its side are toxic, derided, spent,
but they are together at last, no?
Indistinguishable the king and his trash in the end.
Yes those lone and level sands. Don't forget.
Eat your shoe!
You wanted this repast of rubber and plastic didn't you.
But alas your utensils are so breakable.
Desire is never what we envision.
The pink & white prettiness of what you ran on now a shape of indigestible proportions.
Choking is an option.
Yet it doesn't take away from the purchase, the discarding, the reckless way you live on earth.
SHOE #14: a love (less) note
Where are you (I used to plead).
So useless, all my brown flowers halved
and the trips we planned to take annulled.
Must I imagine your end?
Plastic busted to a stem and the rubber chocked with sand,
scarcely more than just another bit of refuse on the strand.
Still, look how you blend in!
I wouldn't know you from a stranger now and how does that make me feel.
You who slipped off on a surf-churning walk, were in water, sought,
but now, a new pair bought, who needs you?
Fickle yes, the lover of things, I am,
You had every accoutrement for a life on the town Princess, didn’t you?
Hot yellow bubbles to blow, a smoke or two, a spoon to consume your ice cream
mouthful by little lipsticked mouthful.
And those shoes!
Satiny red as a glistening witch, a childhood vagina, a last dance at the end of an endless festival.
That black butterfly you settled your arch into, your hairless digits hard for a whirl, whirl, whirl, but then how
the rhythm creased the patina, bent your sashaying out of shape.
You are used to discarding them aren't you, Ms Queen?
There is nothing else in each of these poems than waste, the night when you declared
O my love, you are just a bit of flesh, and now, stone, then sand, then grit in the small slits and then water
washing all the ball rooms away.
There's nothing there!
So forget fabricating magic from refuse, Cindy Lou reminded herself ruefully.
Yet little stopped the trash of fairy tales from accumulating.
The prince had the head of a bottle cap, the body of a syringe and
all those little widgets for brain cells.
Cindy Lou told herself he was resourceful, debonair even.
Then suddenly she felt like fleeing him, and in the fast dashing
from his midden, left one of her shoes behind of the pair he had bought
: plastic, rubber, small shiny bits and an uncomfortable fake
She only left behind his vision of her, running hard and bare
into a future far from this palatial garbage and its royal lineage.
Tiny participant, you have no choice.
Born into this pit of waste,
your shoe drops too, minuscule sandal
that fastened once around plump flesh
as it kicked & kicked.
The seaweed is crisp and salt-white;
almost an initial crib.
Your small protection riding the current of algae
as a boat in which the passengers are plastic.
It is not your fault.
But soon, you won't be able to refute your fate.
O baby, how our plastics match.
So compatible these moments that will never decay.
My blues rub against your blues in the brown-grey bed
and how we become part of this delicious pact in which
what's beneath us passes on while we, eternal as Dorian Grays,
stay forever, refusing death.
Are you ashamed, shoe?
Face downwards in the grit, only your still-new grid showing, washed up before you've scarcely even walked.
Shame is wasted energy.
Shame is essential acknowledgment.
So which is it?
The fact is, it doesn't matter.
Whether you feel shame or not shoe, still, you lie there, un-erodable with your equally permanent companions.
These photographs were taken in the ironic wilderness of an untended beach on the Mayan Riviera.
Like the Shoes? Don't miss Part One:
About the Artists:
Catherine Owen is the author of 15 collections of poetry and prose. Her latest books are Riven (ECW, 2020) and Locations of Grief: an emotional geography, 24 memoirs on loss and place from Wolsak & Wynn, due out later this year. Raised in Vancouver BC, she lives in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Karen Moe is a writer, visual and performance artist and a feminist activist. She has been published in such magazines as Border Crossings, ArtSpace, WhiteHot and Revista 192. She is the editor and founder of the magazine Vigilance: Fierce Feminisms. Karen has exhibited and performed across Canada, in the US and in Mexico and has just finished her first book, Victim: a Manifesto. Karen lives in British Columbia, Canada and Mexico City.