Shoes on the Subway by Lucy Sydel

Shoes on the subway

make moving patterns in zig zags and squiggles and shapes and lines.

And in big clumps, their shoelaces bob up and down,

almost nodding their shoelace heads and agreeing,

“Yes, that was a wonderful step,

mm-hmm, that was a top-notch step,

yup, that step was grade-A,

ten points for that step!”


Shoes in the rain

are careful not to walk in a puddle,

but people don’t always realize that

it is weird and beautiful

that every so often

water just falls from the sky,

like a cloud-person knocked a drink off the table

and the droplets are hitting us down here in Manhattan.

We can never really tell

how far away the sky is

because after awhile, it all blends together —

especially when it’s raining, and the water is in your eyes,

it’s very hard to tell

how far away the sky is.

It’s nice to feel like this in the rain:

so thankful that you are alive

that you’re not worried about getting your shoes wet.


Shoes on the street

never notice the wind —

and it is so crazy how people

have made all of these cars and bridges and planes

but we can’t stop the wind from blowing away our hats.

The wind doesn’t know who or what

it is pushing around.

If you are a person in the wind

it doesn’t matter who you are —

because in the wind, in the rain, in the sun, in the snow,

it is not always about you.

And sometimes it’s nice to be a hat in the wind.


Shoes in the waiting room

are eavesdropping,

just like me.

We hear the people talk about politics, or about skin care,

or about the weather forecast,

and when they laugh it sounds like a sitcom.

I see people, and

they see me too.

And sometimes,

we both smile.

I want to know them.


I see faces

in the smudges on people’s shoes,

faces in the holes of a homeless man’s sweater;

I see faces in the clouds,

and in electrical sockets,

faces on the veins of leaves,

on the dried gum stuck to the sidewalk.

I see faces that I know and faces that I do not know —


I watch the strangers trying

not to watch each other.

And so they look down

at shoes on the subway.

I see faces doused in the fluorescent light.

They are brilliant.