THE RED SHOES


Ten minutes or so into a performance

of Mathew Bourne’s ballet at Sadler’s Wells,

with the principal alone spot lit en pointe,

there was muffled shout off stage right

and a clatter as if a metal ladder

had been toppled. (Professional dance –

that always seems heartbreakingly effortless –

is always on the cusp of injury).

The music stopped suddenly, the curtains closed

– and, as the house lights came on, we were asked

to remain seated, assured the show would start

again soon. Voices rose like flocks of sparrows.

Mobiles were turned back on. Texts and selfies sent…

 

Many decades before there were cell phones

you had a pair of red high heel shoes,

of which you were especially fond

having the spirit of a dancer.

We had been to a rather dull party

in Liverpool 8, and, changing trains

at Hooton – from electric to steam,

as if in some cut-price sci-fi movie –

you stumbled and one of your shoes fell

between the carriage and the platform.

You limped from Chester General on my arm,

to a taxi, like an elegant, injured bird.

I returned to Hooton the next day.

A porter had seen and retrieved the shoe –

scuffed, and besmirched all over with soot.

You said, ‘Some glass slipper!’. ‘Some prince!’ I said…

 

The ballet recommenced. We watched the girl’s

destiny unfold like a Greek tragedy –

her hubris vanity, men, the joy of dance? –

and end, like Anna Karenina,

in front of a steam train.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by Ian Craine - October 27th, 2017 at 13:21

    What a lovely poem – two poems in one really.

    I remember those days. You couldn’t get between Chester and Liverpool without changing at Hooton, which few people outside Wirral will ever have heard of.

  2. #2 by Ashen Venema - October 27th, 2017 at 16:55

    A man who cares to retrieve the lost red shoe – lovely gist of fairy tales.

  3. #3 by Howard Gardener - October 27th, 2017 at 23:19

    I remember once meeting somebody from a dating site in Liverpool. She told me that she lived in Hooton and I asked, “Do you live far from the owl sanctuary?” She didn’t get it and the relationship withered and died. Relationships flounder on the rocks of fickle wordplay such as this . . .

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