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The same old story? [poem: Shoes]

August 24, 2010

Love, death, grief, acceptance… most poems, in my limited experience as a reader, have their roots in one of these themes. This poem, which won placement in Calliope, the literary journal published by Chapman University in Orange, California, draws strength from all four. When I began reading poetry publicly last year after a long time away from the stage, I pulled this one out again to revisit an old friend. The middle two stanzas draw on the earlier glass slipper reference, but I found that the first and last stanzas spoke to me in a new light after all these years and my recent encounters with love, death, grief, and acceptance. So I’m working on a new piece that branches off from those stanzas; I’ll post it in a couple of days as a work in progress.

To round things out, I would like to develop the second and third stanzas into their own separate piece. Feel free to share your suggestions about where to walk in those shoes!

And if you are local, I am planning on reading at the Craggy Range tomorrow night and at Clementine’s this coming Saturday. You can find details about the venues here.


It never was a fairytale
I’m too independent to play Cinderella
And you certainly were no Prince Charming
But I lost something
as fragile as glass
as ordinary as a slipper
More precious than a diamond

It’s funny
At the time my shoes were made of lead
I thought they were ugly
Square-toed and predictable
too dull to be real
too cheap to be necessary
With holes peppering the soles

It’s funny
How only now I can see the shine
And how they were a perfect fit
They never pinched my toes
or hurt after a long walk
or conformed my feet to their shape
I could wear them day after day

I always wanted a fairytale
But now that you are Romeo
I love life too much to play Juliet
So I take a breath and step outside
feeling each stone
feeling each blade of grass
Now that my feet are bare

—Julie Laing
first published in Calliope: The Literary Journal of Chapman University

40 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2010 8:20 am

    very beautifully written. i like your way of writing.

    shubho bijoyadashami (Happy vijayadashami)! May the Goddess fill your life up with beauty and happiness


  2. September 10, 2010 1:24 am

    welcome to Rally week 28…
    I enjoyed your talent and cherish your perfect job on commenting and reading.



  3. mangoesntangoes permalink
    September 6, 2010 10:08 am

    This well written, not cinderella or Juliet but you. I think that we forgot how uncomfortable other shoes can be on us. You did a great job of portraying this perspective.


  4. September 4, 2010 11:42 am

    Wow. I am simply blown away by this piece. Capturing and relating feelings I too have felt, yet never so vividly as this. Moving.


  5. August 31, 2010 2:58 pm

    Julie, this is stunning. You took the normalness of beaten-up, everyday shoes and turned them into something that little girls dream of, before they even know what the dream means.
    Then, before you left us wallowing in the pleasures of gratitude for adult-sized love, you took the shoes away, showing us what grief is made of, or independence, or self-fulfillment – and yet not telling us what it was. This is a masterpiece of poetry. Well Done!


    • September 1, 2010 10:47 am

      Thanks so much for your comments. I’ve received such a great response to this piece that I’m afraid I might be going wrong in my latest plan to split it in two and build two new pieces out of it, but your feedback has given me some ideas of where to take the “shoe” portion. I’ll let you know when I post it.


  6. August 30, 2010 7:36 am

    Hope that you are doing fine,
    make sure return favors to poets who were here…

    Happy Monday!


  7. DiamondsAndDogs permalink
    August 29, 2010 7:39 pm



  8. August 29, 2010 7:16 am

    You’ve done well with this.
    I like the comparisons you made to cindarella


  9. August 29, 2010 2:07 am

    great work!


    • August 29, 2010 1:38 pm

      Thanks so much! It’s great to hear the piece touched you. I can’t wait to read the results of you inspiration.


  10. August 28, 2010 9:12 am

    I have found it for you. great writing well done
    my entry for the week


    • August 31, 2010 10:57 am

      Judging from your entry for the rally, I think you really did find it! I’m glad someone did. Thanks for sharing your work.


  11. mairmusic permalink
    August 28, 2010 5:51 am

    A lovely parable that tells its tale simply and well. You use language cleanly, without redundancy. Nicely done!


    • August 31, 2010 10:53 am

      Thanks for your feedback! I enjoyed your Tucson poem as well. The autumn instinct that makes you reach for shoes regardless of the setting ties in so nicely with the hermit crab inspiration for the piece. It’s making me consider setting my own challenge of writing verse to form.


  12. oinky permalink
    August 28, 2010 4:52 am

    lovely poem..liked the concept and story! 😀


    • August 29, 2010 1:37 pm

      Thank you. I’m continuing to work on a series based on this piece; I’ll let you know when I post the next poem.


  13. August 27, 2010 11:52 pm

    very very beautiful.. i liked the last verse a lot.

    my entry for the rally is The Butterfly Lover 🙂


    • August 31, 2010 10:44 am

      Thanks, Leo. And thanks for the link to your entry. I always struggle when I attempt to write such structured verse, whether it’s shaped or rhyming, like your sidebar piece. It’s nice to see it well done. I particularly like that you can read the upper wings of your butterfly separately or across on the same line. BTW, in the butterfly, I think you mean “wipe” instead of “wip.”


  14. August 27, 2010 9:50 pm

    your words are beautiful I enjoyed this piece


  15. August 27, 2010 6:50 pm
    pick three awards from my post,
    pass them to 1 to 10 blogging friends with whom you believe that they deserve them.
    have fun!
    Take good care.


  16. August 27, 2010 2:44 pm

    “But I lost something
    as fragile as glass
    as ordinary as a slipper
    More precious than a diamond”

    This is such a powerful poem, Julie. Blending the theme of two fictional characters to describe the emotions is wonderful. Thank you for this poem.



    • August 29, 2010 1:34 pm

      Thank you! I’m working on extracting the fictional characters into a new piece; I’ll let you know when I post a version of it.


  17. August 26, 2010 10:03 pm

    So eloquently and beautifully writeen x


  18. August 26, 2010 6:40 pm

    Oh my gosh… I was planning to write “another Cinderella story” as well but instead I wrote just “another love story”…
    totally love your poem… Its so so beautiful… loved the blend of Cinderella and Juliet…

    keep posting such pieces

    viva la vida 🙂


    • August 29, 2010 1:33 pm

      Thanks–as I said in the intro to the post, I’m working on separating out the two sections of the poem into two separate pieces, just to see what I can come up with. I’ll let you know when the new versions are posted.


  19. August 26, 2010 6:20 pm

    reality trumps fairy tales anyday! We love this.


    • August 29, 2010 1:32 pm

      Thanks so much! And I agree–trying to live in a fairytale is far more work than dealing with reality.


  20. August 26, 2010 5:32 pm

    u r welcome to the Rally all the time,
    I value every quality participation…
    have fun visiting!

    Happy Thursday!


  21. August 26, 2010 5:32 pm

    u have some vivid imagination here,

    u said things I wish to say but failed to say.
    beautiful poem!



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