A Lesson in Counting

“Before attempting to tie these shoes,”

the old man said, “Let’s consider

the properties of an even number.

Two shoes are simpler than laces.”

This brought problems. How to count?

How would they know when one shoe




three steps

became four?  On pebbles?





old, blind, deaf, numb

can’t touch molecules of air

which are supposed to make clear

how and when we each became ourselves.

Stated another way

Where do my shunned fingers end, and yours,

uncompromised, begin?

Before attempting to tie these shoes,”

he said, releasing freshly

double-knotted angel wings,

“take these nimble fingers, albeit strangers.

Place them on top of mine. We’ll

make our first and last snow angels

not in snow

or over dirt

but within loops

of laces.


they awaited their flight.

The assignment in my poetry class was to borrow language from an unsuspecting source. I think I took and rearranged a line or two from my bio textbook. A friend at the time read the rough draft and said it was weird how I associated such a young and innocent milestone as tying shoes with death. So I went back and incorporated aeronautical imagery to salvage the connection between youth and age.


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