I found the boots in the back of my closet,
again. Rich black leather, up to nearly
my knees. Sturdy zippers had been installed
in the sides, long ago. New heels, twice,
and soles, once since. I recall the Saturday
afternoon they were given to me. I can't
remember the guy's name. He had wild
brown hair that matched his eyes, a bushy
mustache, tight black T-shirt. We had just
finished moving another guy I worked
with at Papermate in Santa Monica. "Here,
take these," he had said, pulling the boots
off. "They're almost brand new." He slipped
on a pair of sneakers. "Nah, I can't do that,"
I said. "No, go on. Try them on. I just had
the zippers put in." He rode a Harley, they
were biker boots, shiny leather. I sat down.
After sliding off my tennis shoes, I pulled
on the boots. "Whoa man, they fit like . . .
Like a . . . " We were passing around a pipe
and a bottle of beer. "Like a tight you know
what," he interjected. "Yeah, well, something
like that." I was thinking of a better word
for glove. "How much?" "Nothing, man."
The sun had that California, Saturday-afternoon
bend. Somebody else opened more cold beers.
Pete, the guy we helped, rearranged his things
in the small Venice apartment. There was
the salty smell of the ocean and sand mixed
with the sweet odor of pot, the harshness
of car exhaust. The stereo suddenly cranked.
the Moody Blues, "Threshold of a Dream." I
had to get back to the cottages, my toddler,
the wife, but I also had to linger. Today,
I hold the two boots up with one hand. I know
they still fit. I've worn them on rare occasions.
My toddler daughter is married with children
of her own. My wife is remarried, to a minister.
I drop the heavy boots in the back of the closet.
I'll wear them one more time. In a manner
of speaking, I'm wearing them, right now.
John Sierpinski has published poetry in over fifty literary magazines and two anthologies. He studied poetry at the Vest Conservatory for Writers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013.