THE BROWN ELEPHANT-SKIN BROGUES

Patricia ran a catalogue
for family and friends,
with whom she did not share commission;
she cajoled them to buy,
encouraged them, weekly,

but being frugal I resisted,
though, to please, I leafed the pages.
Only once did I succumb:
the brown elephant-skin brogues,
hand stitched, hand-tooled, with leather soles.

Expensive,
for me, who would not spend a penny
when a half-penny would do,
yet still a reasonable enough price
to attract attention; with a lifetime’s guarantee.

The elephant-skin was the hook:
still enough of the romantic in me
to feel a quickening at the thought
of Maharajahs, the adventures of Allan Quartermain,
the exoticism of jungles, waterfalls, the unexplored.

The brown brogues came.
Smelt new, leathery, firm yet supple,
with round, leather laces.
I tried them; walked round the room;
elephants’ feet in the carpet.

I wore them till the soles wore thin,
till they were down at heel,
then re-heeled and re-soled, alternately,
again and again,
paid more in repairs than for the shoes themselves.

They are in need of new soles now,
have been for years; a polish wouldn’t come amiss.
Perhaps an airing is due, overdue,
while there is still time
to believe there is time for exploration.