The Ambulant Shoe Shiner

The Ambulant Shoe Shiner

A Poem by A.T.B.


He tumbled in with his disheveled hair like weed.
His angular body slouched from the heavy bags under
his bleary eyes.
He seemed in need.
Half a filter-less cigarette dangled from his lips
like consumed harlot breasts which had long
surrendered to gravity.
He IS in need.
Grimly trudging through the plaza
between tables upon which were perched blind patrons
tossing bread to pigeons,
he tapped his shoe brush on the wooden shoe shinning
box in staccato. 
Tap … tap tap … tap
Tap … tap tap … tap
Never looking at faces,
just feet.
Looking for leather shoes.
In his shoe shinning box, he had polish
for all shoes: brown, black, and transparent,
but none for local shoes.
He avoided the locals like a disease
he didn’t have yet.
The locals ignored him like a reality they refused to see.
They know his type.
He sniffed glue and dealt kif to hippie tourists.
He looked at my feet and pointed at them
with the shoe brush insistently, meaning:
Mister, you seem to have come from afar.
I know our dirt when I see it
and what you have on your shoes
is not ours.
I can shine them for you.
I signaled to him that yes,
he can shine my shoes
while I’m drinking my cortado
and reading my paper.
There is nothing wrong
with helping this fella
earn a living.
He squatted down and
put the box before my feet.
The sour stench of stale sweat
filled the air.
I put a leather shoe on the shoe
rest and watched him go at it like a pro.
How’s it going? I ask.
Up until this morning, we are stilled mired
in intellectual and economic poverty.
We are on our last leg with one foot in the grave.
And we are only in our teens.
Our feet are shackled by
Rhetoric of distant
politicians and
intellectuals who,
from their surreptitious way of life,
amusingly observe
the mass in their morass.
Refuse change.
Change foot, mister.
Students, ordinary government employees, unemployed
university grads, and the likes of me striving in our surviving,
the nose barely jutting out through the surface of an ocean
of s**t
generated by decades of fruitless
economic plans upon which we were
to start a family,
build a future,
find happiness and
of mind. We are drowning, mister.
His head did not look up once.
His hand did not stop running the brush once.
He only talked once.
He tapped the box.
He finished.
I paid.
A light breeze blew.
He rolled with it.
Tap … tap tap … tap
Tap … tap tap … tap
I stood up and walked to a trash can.
It was filled with newspapers.
I tossed mine in with the rest of them.
And walked away through the pigeon
t**d crusted plaza
in my freshly shined shoes.

© 2008 A.T.B.

My Review

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I really enjoyed this write...I would call this commentary on society. I love the descriptions here. I feel some snipping of unnecessary words might tighten this up a bit. Sometimes it is the shoe shiners who are the enlightened ones. I live in NYC and I swear I see God in the bowery street bums, and the devil in the three piece suits, although in reality they both live in all of us, don't they? Your write was intelligent and made me think.

Posted 12 Years Ago

He tumbled in with his disheveled hair like weed.
His angular body slouched from the heavy bags under
his bleary eyes.
He seemed in need

what a start, I mean these descriptions are so strong and pulled me right in. The rest of the poem did not disappoint, it is a great piece, and I mean great.

I might suggest that you look at pruning words and remove unnecessary adverbs ie.... "grimly trudging" trudging sums it up, grimly is kind of hammering it home in case we don't get it.

and the first few lines could do with removing some 'he' and 'his' words ie...

He tumbled in with hair disheveled like weed
angular body slouched from heavy bags under
bleary eyes.
He seemed in need.

Just my thoughts to make a great piece an outstanding one .

Posted 12 Years Ago

This reminds me of a World War II scene my grandfather told to me once in that the only people escaping Italy where he was stationed were people in finely clad leather shoes - or at least they were the ones to look for as they were the ones taking from the rest. Great poem - your writing seems to be getting stronger with each brush of the penstroke. Thank you for your service.
Love and Light,

Posted 12 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on April 19, 2008
Last Updated on April 21, 2008



I am neither fish, fowl, nor good red herring (from ASK THE DUST by John Fante.) I'm the author of writings that are yet to be understood. Soon, the world will catch on. more..

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