Here inside a stall, inside a room, upon a floor
inside a building built for recall and remembering,
here lie the lasts*;

the last lasts, ghosts of feet,
the chiseled casts of the final customers
to press their moves upon these streets
as though they’d lead forever,

each ankle, delicately turned upon a lathe of leith,
arches held, each individual sole
solicitously measured – the answer scored
upon it’s face beneath the place
where tongues might later flap.

Here lie the lasts, each one drilled with truth,
a secret morse of holes to breathe and see like eyes –
windows to the soul – said Leonardo, Law and Cicero
but also, Jimmy Choo.

Here lie the last lasts made by the last of his line,
Falkner (William) number five,
Market Harborough’s Shoe Made King,
Market Harborough’s shoe ma-king…

Pinocchio is transfixed – not wood to flesh –
but flesh to this: each miracle of bone and sinew-skin,
taught to dream in maple, pine and yew and beech.

Each wonderment of shadowed wood
built in layers of patterns cut and parts arranged,
beveled, pared and shaped,
leather soaked and stretched and nailed,
meticulously stitched and glued.

On a sunny day, inside this glass lined, lamp-lit
horse shoe shaped room – the last lasts line a wall
arrayed around an arsenal of resurrected tools.
My mother-in-law – who lingers by a shoe shine stool
describes a time when her Great Aunt Maude,
a kitchen-maid who never got to finish school
went into service in a manor-house
and met and married the boot-boy, who
spent his evenings elbow deep in wax and grease
buttoning and blacking other people’s
clogs and brogues – but later learned
this alchemy of boxes,
stacked and packed with tacks and screws,
brushes, bottles, red jeweled balls of glinting cord,
heel cap cuticles of steel, their crescent moons
and opened up a shop – him and Maude
inside their own first home (oh lucky few)
like ‘Hobson’s Choice‘ (the film) –
from 18 shillings once week
to sovereign pounds arranged in rows.

Back in the room
the last, lasts creak,
leaning from their shelves
to whisper to my mass made mules…
but there’s no talking shop, mine have seen too much
passed from hand to hand, none of which, fed enough
in distant factories, built on sweat and blood
– like Hobson’s Choice (where there is none)
and now are mute.

A long, long way from
Falkner heels,
from hand stitched uppers
sewn with seeds of
glittered care and cut
with blades
initialed with a name
and boots and shoes
that took two weeks to set
and couldn’t be repeated
ever or again.

A long, long way from
Market Harborough’s
long, long dead,
shoe made kings,
we do not fit
the head with crowns
we fit the feet –

here lie the lasts;
the last lasts, ghosts of feet
the chiseled casts of the final customers
to press their moves upon these streets
as though they’d walk, as though they’d lead, as though
they’d last – as though they’d quick step out forever

and progress marches on.

*“A last is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot. It is used by shoemakers in the manufacture and repair of shoes. Lasts typically come in pairs, and have been made from various materials, including hardwoods.” – [sic] Wikipedia.

Thanks to Sole2Sole for commissioning this piece.

Things A-Foot

June 17, 2014

Hello again – and apologies to regular visitors for this blog’s recent skulking under-cover status. Over the last few months many things have been in progress not least of all an exciting tour, Three the Hard Way – temporarily causing me to deflect to HERE. As you’ll see, should you follow the link, it’s all very exciting, involving me plus two other poets, Jean Binta Breeze and Alison Dunne. There are pictures of us gadding about from Corby to Clapham to Cornwall – and other places, not beginning with C, but none the less lovely for it.

Meanwhile, other things have been progressing, as they will. Things I’m particularly chuffed about include having a couple of poems picked by two publications/publishers, both of which I have of late (and for some time) been quite dizzy with fan-girl, stalker-ish, nerdy obsession about.

The first is the mighty Magma 59, coming out in July – and launching regionally, Upstairs at The Western on July 17th. Each edition of Magma is specifically themed and edited by a different person, a fact I first encountered back in Spring 2011 when I bought a brilliant, brilliant green covered version, themed around ‘Construction’ and edited by Julia Bird – a fabulously talented poet and dynamic literature promotor with two collections and numerous projects to her name. Magma 59 is themed around ‘Breaks’ and edited by equally talented, Alex Pryce and Roberta James. I have a surprisingly large number of poems on the theme of breaks (in no way suggestive of poor moral fibre) and shall be performing, Wool – the one selected, at the launch.

The second piece has been picked for a forthcoming Bloodaxe anthology, Raving Beauties – edited by Sue Jones-Davies, Dee Orr, Anna Carteret and Fan Viner. Raving Beauties will be the quartet’s forth collection of women’s themed work – and strutting out in 2015.

Speaking of strutting and things afoot leads nicely to another thing, namely a shoe themed poem I was recently commissioned to write by Sole2Soul – an Arts Council funded project, curated by University of Leicester. The brief was to write a piece in response to the William Falkner Shoe and Boot exhibition, installed at Harborough Museum. Late last month I took myself off to Market Harborough with some family in tow, visited the museum, took some pictures, made some notes, left the building, braved some rain, sheltered in a pub, sat in car,  watched ‘Hobson’s Choice’ (killer b/w classic, recommended by my mother-in-law, who now feels equally committed!) and wrote the above. I mean, the above poem I’m about to post, in a moment…

I also bought some very reasonably priced black, kitten heeled, sling-backs from the local British Heart Foundation, which should you visit the wonderful William Falkner Shoe and Boot exhibit and its surrounding stomping ground, I can highly recommend. The charity shop, not the sling backs, which are of course, no longer there.