Weekends, growing up, I’d watch my father
as he sat on a low stool in the veranda
surrounded by half a dozen pairs of shoes,
their laces taken out, each meekly awaiting
its turn. Facing him, assembled on a spread
of old newspapers: the small round tins
of Kiwi shoe polish (its delicious smell),
a couple of stiff-bristled horsehair brushes,
an old towel, and a couple of cloth rags,
one damp, one dry. One by one, he’d hook
each shoe gently in his left hand, and work
his right hand from toe to heel, first along
one side, then turn it around for the other.
Putting one down to dry, he’d pick up
the next, then clean, brush, and buff until
they shone like new. How loving each stroke.
When my thankless teens intervened,
as they will, I withdrew from him who
continued to shine his shoes, and go to work,
and put one foot in front of the other.
That summer of my eighteenth year, as I
hungered for new adventures elsewhere,
I found him hunched in the half dark hall
polishing a pair of leather sandals—mine.
Now that he is ten years gone, I recall how
quiet was his love, how mute his farewell.
Nausheen Eusuf is a PhD student in English at Boston University, with an MA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins. Her poems have appeared in PN Review, Agenda, Wasafiri, World Literature Today, Poetry Salzburg Review, and other journals, and her poetry pamphlet What Remains was published by Longleaf Press at Methodist University.