These flip-flops cost me $7.99 at Aldi’s,
the Whole Foods for broke folks, where I shopped
that summer I wasn’t contributing.
Farming for fennel then burning it up
in a slick of generic olive oil.
These embossed, beige soles have felt
the soft red soil of Rocky Ford, Georgia
where I paced and smoked and cried and draft dodged
because I’m a liberal witch who drinks
Dad’s friends under the bar to make him proud.
They have marched and slapped through backlot truck stops
in Bemiji, Minnesota where I screamed myself mute,
and the isolation of going straight
to voicemail provided self-reliance.
They have skipped over the broken asphalt
and petroleum rainbow puddle pools
in Chattanooga, Tennessee where Mom
laughed tears to the notion of us walking
away from the action flick explosion
caused by my discarded cigarette butt.
They have shuffled quite anonymously
through the infinity mirror hallways
of half a dozen hotels from Knoxville
to Milwaukee where night sweats, love, and guilt
are collected every morning and soaked
in bleach for a false sense of purity.
They have clopped through ethnic restaurants —
vintage, thrift, coffee, and record shops.
Tapped the ball of my foot from barstool heights,
and been tossed aside for backyard fire nights,
or pretzel-leg sits or beach wave crashes,
tomato sauce lessons or rash sex sessions.
V’s are branded into the tops of both feet
from cold beer on the balcony sun burns
which are fading away like the length of the days.
Jen Escher is an adjunct English professor and a writer of memoir, poetry, and thinly-veiled memoir touted as fiction. She lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (in a quickly emptying nest) where she cheerfully writes about the dark, dense, and complicated human magic that is love, sex, and self-destruction.