Market Harborough’s Last King

June 17, 2014




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.


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