The Shoe Tree
by Mary Langer Thompson
I don’t think I’ll ever see
this tree full of shoes again,
but I have a photograph
she sent, branches laden with tied-together
sneakers—maybe one pair was hers,
and she slipped away
from that rented room in the mountains
to add to it—that would be like her—
secretly flinging a pair of good shoes
up into the air, hoping for them to be caught
and preserved forever, protected by leafy arms.
But, wait. Don’t gang members knot theirs together
and toss them over wires
on busy boulevards so we’ll
know we are trespassing
on evil territory?
I’m sure she would say,
“You gotta love them, too!”
Today the tree stands before me in its natural state.
They say the town’s senior citizens hated the mess,
and had it de-shoed so they can remember
it was a real hanging tree
for claim jumpers, mostly.
She would probably laugh and say she never
got to be elderly, and she always knew
where her feet should go.
I for one think we need new blooms.
Undoing the straps of my aging, scruffy sandals,
I wonder if we wear shoes in Heaven.
PHOTO: Big Bear Lake, California, by glowonconcepts, used by permission.
NOTE: Big Bear Lake is a small city in San Bernardino County, California, located in the San Bernardino Mountains along the south shore of Big Bear Lake, and surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. The city is located about 25 miles northeast of the city of San Bernardino, and immediately west of the unincorporated town of Big Bear City. The population was approximately 5,019 at the 2010 census, but it is a popular year-round resort destination, so the actual number of people staying in or visiting the greater Big Bear Valley area regularly surges to over 100,000 during many weekends of the year.
PHOTO: The Shoe Tree, Big Bear Lake, California. Photo by Paula.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A favorite place for my family to vacation is Big Bear Lake in Southern California. After a family vacation, my cousin Paula took this picture of “The Shoe Tree.” The tree no longer has shoes on it and sadly, my cousin passed away, but I think of her every time I pass this tree when I’m in Big Bear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Langer Thompson’s articles, short stories, and poetry appear in various journals and anthologies. She is a contributor to Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets (McFarland) and was the 2012 Senior Poet Laureate of California. A retired principal and English teacher, she now writes full time in Apple Valley, California, where she received the Jack London Award in 2019 from the High Desert Branch of the California Writers Club.