To Throw Away Shoes

‘Poetry & Prose by Poet, Cheolsung Lee’

Back from my travels, I take off my shoes, which are filled with dust, both inside and out. It’s as if I collected dirt, meticulously charting the areas

I have been and taking pieces of it as evidence.

I left my shoes behind, outside the doors and forever, bye.

It feels as if a piece of myself is missing (as it rightly should…) The tale of a wizard? Used and forgotten?

My shoes have become a ragged mess, and I have thrown them out. Just outside my door, actually. They’re not gone, just not inside my house. Can that truly be described as discarded? My wife asks me from outside the door. Should this be thrown out? she asks as she takes out the trash. Oh, she has left before I can answer.

Throughout my journey through the world, I put the same shoes on and take the same ones off, repeatedly. Then, in the corner of my lodging, I put them for safekeeping, away from the outside. I am worried about theft, as I should be because everything that I have may be targeted. The reason I leave it in the corner of the room, is because it is dirty. These are shoes that have walked many kilometers throughout the day, stepped on all kinds of germs and messes, and must be infested with all kinds of pathogens at this point. And yet, they are the same shoes that I put on in the morning as I set out, because isn’t it cleaner still, than to step barefoot on the ground? These are shoes that have been with me for the last month, through thousands of kilometers. They have been flush with the grounds of countless remote trails, absorbing the minerals, wastes, and the ages of time accumulated over the years, experiencing travel with the whole of their bodies. In fact, the true travelers are the shoes, and I am but an aristocrat admiring the views atop of them. Have I just thrown out such shoes? No she is still at the door, and yells at me, throw them out or not? I shout back, yes! Throw them out! They’re at the door, for that reason, throw them out! Do you hear me?

My travels are over. From my darkened face, I shave off my beard, put on my urban clothes and go out into Seoul in my new leather shoes to make a living. No shoes await for me at the door anymore, and these thick leather shoes feel uncomfortable. It’s as if the entire ground has been covered with thick leather, dull and thudding. Which reminds me, there is no dirt anywhere, only cement and asphalt. I come to a stop, and think, I shouldn’t have. I could have worn them for at least another half year if I washed them. They were as smooth as my own skin, and supple as my own wiggling toes. I had relied on them to feel out everything, as much as I did for my senses of smell and taste. But even more important is that each night, as I traveled by night from one city to another, they would wait for me at my feet, to greet me again the next morning and take me on new paths and roads. They were originally sky blue, with white shoe laces and a big N logo. At the end, they had become the color of the earth.
And I threw them out.