KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 8: August 2017
Poem: 205 words

Polishing Leather

by Kika Dorsey
At school she learned how to darn socks, 
sew the skirts of dirndls, 
make the dough for Kartoffelnknoedel, 
and polish the leather of shoes. 
It didn’t matter that they were poor, 
five years later when the war ended and they were hungry—
she would still try to keep the shoes clean and shiny, 
even after her son’s was losing its sole
and she had no glue to fix it. 
Her neighbor traded two kilos of apricots for new shoes, 
but the fox snatched her chickens
and the Russians drank her Schnaps
and she had nothing else to trade. 

In the evening she set her shoes
near the door and rubbed cloth against them
until the black shined. 
Then she brushed her long brown hair
and looked at herself in the mirror—
dark eyes of Slavic blood staring back at her—
and something told her to leave. 
But they said it was no better in Vienna, 
better to till one’s own garden. 

The next day she dug for carrots, 
soil piling on her shoes, 
brown like her eyes on the black leather, 
all of it dark like the day the bombs fell
and her husband with his torn boots
climbed into the torn sky. 


—From a manuscript-in-progress of poems about post-war Austria and Germany


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