Brand new leather built blisters that bubbled
and burnt, glistening wet like a fresh tattoo.
It took miles of massaging before the stiff soles
learned to hold my feet like a lover.
I have sat for hours, a gargoyle polishing his pedestal
with wax and horsehair, rubbing brown salves
over cracks left by the desert winter air
and milky streaks of saltwater rich with lime.
In turn, my boots have guided me blindly over brick roads
and terracotta roofs. We’ve scaled sandstone towers
and dangled above canals washed in red light.
They carried me home quietly when it was time.
When my toes touched the rain, I emptied my pockets
before a small-mouthed man with dry-ice eyes and a beard
denser than rubber. He tore skin and stitches, transplanted
a new tar-black body onto a worn face.
The hospital floor is pale green.
My boots glow warm brown.
Swollen lips part under fluorescent light.
Some souls can’t be replaced.