The Stolen Shoes
When I escaped from the mental hospital
I stole a pair of shoes,
prettier than my own black institutional uglies.
The stolen shoes were white and unworn,
immaculate, clean, soft leather mysteries,
with golden eyelets
threaded through with blue ribbons for laces.
They belonged to Mary, Mother of God,
who slept in the bed next to mine
and woke me in the night with her snoring.
She was an odd one.
She wrapped beads round her left thigh, like a bride’s garter,
and draped an old scrap of lace over her head for a veil.
I don’t know why she did this;
she had never been married – she hadn’t even kissed a man –
she was sectioned when she was ten.
At the dinner table she whispered Hail Marys to herself
as her porridge, or her lamb stew, or her custard
dribbled onto her blouse.
Once, she stole all the pears and hid them in her locker –
the ward stank but it took days for the nurses to find out
where the smell was coming from.
Every Friday morning, before breakfast,
the stolen shoes were brought out and laid on her bed.
She looked at them for a short while then put them away.
Every Friday morning without fail.
I don’t think she noticed me looking at them too.
The stolen shoes didn’t get me very far;
I put them on before I climbed out of the window
and ran as fast as I could across the grass,
but they were too small – or my feet were too big –
the soles split when I reached the wall
and started to climb the ladder I had bribed the gardener to place there for me.
I nearly cried when I had to leave those shoes behind in the rose bed.