Nobody knows where the boxes came from,
only that they were always there, under
the sink, stacked high in a corner
of the closet–shoe boxes, shoe boxes
everywhere. My mother wrapped her gifts
in these–candies, hair ribbons, small sweaters…
All I remember her giving me came
in an old Stride Rite or Hush Puppy,
the label blacked out with thick marker,
her own handwriting scrawled across the lid–
NOT SHOES. NOT SHOES. NOT SHOES.
My sister says the memory makes her
smile, helps her sort through our mother’s things.
My sister asks again: What do you want?
I tell her all I want are those rhinestone
pumps our mother wore in her pageant days.
My sister finds this strange, and sad.
She doesn’t understand that this time
all I want is a pair of shoes, I want
something beautiful but predictable,
I need to know exactly what I’m getting.