A Shoe Scene

He walks unbalanced,
homesick wearing
two different shoes
one brown with a crepe sole,
one black with new Topy
he had glued on himself
put on in an impatient haze
preoccupied by
thoughts of night school,
the necessity to prove
what he already knows
as a refugee migrant
in this young country,
the ground feels uneven
this morning.

Ahead, a secretary
dressed in a peacock coat
wearing a brown pill box hat,
and patent black stilettos
catches her heel in a tramtrack;
it snaps, he rushes to help her,
picks up the heel,
offers assistance
in his very best English;
she brushes him off
hissing into his face
‘bloody new Australians,
bloody refos, go back
wherever you came from’;
she hobbles onto the tram,
he shrugs and walks on
with the heel in his hand.

Note: ‘refo’ is a derogatory term that was used by Anglo and Irish Australian citizens in the 1950s to refer to the Displaced Persons and Stateless that came to Australia after WW2. ‘New Australians’ was the official government term in their Populate or Perish policy. More on this policy may be found here

For dVerse Poetics On your feet

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40 thoughts on “A Shoe Scene

  1. Some things, sadly, just don’t change, do they. You got the shoes in here very subtly, yet they ‘re also an important part of what you’re saying. Thanks for the history lesson, and the poem. Enjoyed it, as always, marousia.

  2. Ah, that’s a beautiful illustration of how sure-footedness is not an automatic sign of what one is wearing and how confidence in body comes from within. In Miami refugees were referred to as “refs” – it’s the same the world over.

  3. Indeed sad that until now, it is still happening.

    I like how you expressed his sentiment about life by these lines:
    “the ground feels uneven”

    Lovely share ~

  4. love the history behind this writing…every country has a fear of the new…did not know of this bit of Australian history…thank you for sharing through this media…bkm

  5. It seems that discrimination is not limited to just our country (U,S,). This was a very interesting and poignant piece, and I learned from it. When I very was young my aunt taught me a saying: “Your not better than anyone else, but no one is better than you” in other words we are all equal. Sadly there are just too many people who still think they are so much better than everyone else. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. smiles. well spun tale…i think i feel more sorry for her, at least his hope is in the right place…you paint the scene very well…i could picture him and her…they are familiar…

  7. Well written. It broke my heart. Prejudice, bullying, fear of the unknown, fear of strangers and strangeness yield lack of understanding. In Norway, someone beautiful, someone native, someone inspiring trust, “one of them” tried to blow them all to bits. Is there any sense in the world? I don’t know the answer to “Who is the boogeyman?”

  8. Xenophobia is alive and well throughout the globe. This is a very original take on that and I might say you have illustrated that it has taken a “foothold” in Australia as well. Nice metaphor, and the accompanying art is both frighteningly original and to the point. Great work, M., as usual!

    • Unfortunately it’s been here all along – the country was envisioned as a white working man’s paradise by it’s founders. Our indigenous people didn’t have a vote until 1967.

  9. Wonderful treatment of the whole immigrant issue. There is goodness juxtapositioned with pain in this. I remember in the 70’s (I think) employing a Vietnamese MD refugee as a gardener in a healthcare facility I worked. It hurt me to see him have to start over. It still hurts.

  10. AKA Tom Eliot

    A devastating portrayal of a scene i feel i actually witnessed. Thanks for taking me there and making me think.

  11. Guess I thought that was limited to my corner of the world. You’ve presented this with a nice touch. Q: “topi” Is that a typo, or a definition that doesn’t show up in my dictionary.

    • Topy is a brand name for a type of material used to resole worn shoes πŸ™‚ You were correct about the typo – thank you for pointing it out. I have corrected it now.

  12. marousia i like this piece a lot, the whole topic and the moment when these two people “connect” – when two worlds so to say crash into each other. really think you did a great job…a few suggestions for you to think about…

    He walks unbalanced,
    homesick wearing
    two different shoes (i would cut “two”)
    (one brown with a crepe sole,
    one black with new Topy
    he had glued on himself – > not sure if you really need that much details, think if it were my piece i would cut these three lines)
    put on in an impatient haze
    preoccupied by
    thoughts of night school,
    the necessity to prove
    what he already knows
    as a refugee migrant (would cut the “as”
    in this young country,
    the ground feels uneven
    this morning. (think i would cut this morning)

    (Ahead, a secretary
    dressed in a peacock coat
    wearing a brown pill box hat,
    and patent black stilettos – > would make this “ahead, a secretary, peacock coat, brown pill box hat, patent black stilettos” to make it more immediate…like he sees her and in seconds scans…)
    catches her heel in a tramtrack;
    it snaps, he rushes to help her, (would cut “to help her” and make it he rushes to pick up the heel, offers assistance – that implements the help)
    picks up the heel,
    offers assistance
    in his very best English;
    she brushes him off
    hissing into his face
    β€˜bloody new Australians,
    bloody refos, go back
    wherever you came from’;
    she hobbles onto the tram,
    he shrugs and walks on (cut the and and with the -> he shrugs, walks on, heel in his hand)
    with the heel in his hand.

    so it would look like this…

    He walks unbalanced,
    homesick wearing
    different shoes

    put on in an impatient haze
    preoccupied by
    thoughts of night school,

    the necessity to prove
    what he already knows,
    a refugee migrant
    in young Australia
    the ground feels uneven

    Ahead, a secretary
    in a peacock coat,
    brown pill box hat,
    patent black stilettos

    a tramtrack eats her shoe,
    it snaps, he rushes to
    pick up her heel,
    offers assistance
    in his best yet broken english,

    “Bloody refos”
    she brushes him off
    hissing into his face,
    hobbling onto the tram
    she shouts
    “Go back wherever
    you came from”

    he shrugs, walks on,
    heel in his hand.

    just my two cents..i’m not an expert like luke but thought i just write down what jumps to my mind for you to consider… i like the whole topic and i’ve been to sydney two years ago on business and have met so many sons of these immigrants and they have found home in this country…so it also touched me personally

  13. Dynamite scene.. really enjoyed the drama of this.. and using shoes as a way of exploring these powerful feelings. I like the rushing downward movement of the first stanza in particular. Ending that with

    the ground feels uneven
    this morning.

    works really well as a pivot onto the downward spiral of his day

    I can see him standing there at the end… feel his hurt and acceptance…

    I tend to agree with Claudia’s idea on trimming… greater concentration.

    Great capture… and an important theme πŸ™‚

  14. He walks unbalanced,
    homesick wearing
    two different shoes
    one brown with a crepe sole,
    one black with new Topy
    he glued on himself (cut had as it makes it passive)
    put on in an impatient haze (not sure if this refers to the new Topy or the shoes in general)

    preoccupied by
    thoughts of night school,
    the necessity to prove
    what he already knows
    as a refugee migrant
    in this young country,
    the ground feels uneven
    this morning. (this is a great line, might consider breaking out for emphasis)

    Ahead, a secretary
    dressed in a peacock coat
    wearing a brown pill box hat,
    and patent black stilettos
    catches her heel in a tramtrack;
    it snaps, he rushes to help her, (cut help her)
    picks up the heel,
    offers assistance
    in his very best English;

    she brushes him off
    hissing into his face
    β€˜bloody new Australians,
    bloody refos, go back
    wherever you came from’;
    she hobbles onto the tram,
    he shrugs and walks on
    with the heel in his hand.(actually claudia did great job in this section so i concur)

    a little tightening to let us see the scene vs. being told it and opening it up with some strategic spacing allows us to breathe it all in…i really like the subject matter though and think you really have a nice poem here…

  15. Hello Marousia–

    Brian and Claudia have both given excellent feedback with their clever use of silver scissors to tighten this up. I really enjoyed your vivid depiction of bias in this piece. Look forward to seeing your re-write!

  16. As an Aussie, I relate to this too well! Am old enough to remember ‘refos’ and ‘new Australians’. Sadly it merely takes a different form now, with new nationalities as targets and new words to belittle them.

    The poem is lovely; you’ve created both characters very well and I like the way you use the shoes.

    I can’t add much to what others have suggested. Maybe take away ‘a’ before ‘crepe sole’. I like the verse breaks Claudia suggests. I prefer ‘his very best English’ to ‘best yet broken’. I think the fact that he’s a migrant has ‘very best English’ imply both imperfection and the effort to learn. (A very good point to touch on in this way, as it was and is so often demanded of people, ‘Why don’t you learn to speak English?’ as if they were wilfully refusing and could just do it overnight if they chose.)

    I love also the way you have used the recent past to make a subtle comment on the distressing present.

  17. Thank you so much for your critiques – excellent suggestions – I really appreciate the time you all invested in my poem. Revised version will be up soon πŸ™‚

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