Those boots over there were sitting amongst the rundown running shoes and loafers and wingtips on a display rack of men’s shoes at Experienced Goods in Brattleboro, Vermont a few years ago. They were $8. It was clear that they were at least an inch too long for me, but because they were narrow I tried them on anyway and they fit as if someone had poured liquid leather around my feet and ankles and it magically turned into boots. I took them to an old-school cobbler to be resoled.
“Can you tell me what brand these are?” I said. “Because I need to buy only this brand for the rest of my life.”
“You can’t buy this brand,” the cobbler said. “There is no brand. These boots are probably thirty years old. They were handmade in Italy.”
Leather boots, steel toe boots especially, are one of the few things left in the world that can’t be rushed. They can’t be stonewashed or bleached or chemically altered in order to save time, because what boots need to fit right is exactly that: time. This poem reminds me of that fact.
Work Boots: Still Life
– Jim Daniels
Next to the screen door
work boots dry in the sun.
Salt lines map the leather
and laces droop
like the arms of a new-hire
waiting to punch out.
The shoe hangs open like the sigh
of someone too tired to speak
a mouth that can almost breathe.
A tear in the leather reveals
a shiny steel toe
a glimpse of the promise of safety
the promise of steel and the years to come.
For more information on Jim Daniels, please click here.