I found the poem below in some old documents the other night while looking for something to read at my writers group.  I wrote it in 2004 and revised it a little more this week.  Daddy’s shoe was the first thing I saw when I found him.  Reading this poem in the group gave me some trouble.  No one said much in the way of helping me make it better except one person.  She told me to put the word “alone” in a line by itself.  

I’ve found it is good to talk about things that trouble me and not hide myself from them.  As I read the poem, I could feel that old shitty fear rising up in my throat, scared of something that had already happened.  Scared of how the people in my group might think. I read it as fast as my heart was beating. Someone said it was “dark,” and I said yes, I wrote it while I was in a dark place.

The same person who offered constructive thoughts on the poems I read that night wrote a note just for me to see.  These are real life experiences, don’t apologize for how you felt or express them.

When I hide away from the things that scare or trouble me, when I don’t speak what I believe or feel, then I make it easy, too easy, for me to fall back into invisibility.  Being invisible is just as terrifying as finding that one left shoe.


Closet Ghosts


into the closet

I found a shoe,


resting sideways

containing my father’s foot bones.

Wanting to just close the door,

I stood focused on the one

left behind




shivered up my spine as

I watched him lace up

his one-day-in-my-life

Sunday best. 

Shoe morphed into a boot

fragile now and

cracked from years

walking construction sites.

A hard hat ghosted in,

completing the wardrobe.


If I could, like God,

raise up from the essence

of those shoe bones

the image of my father,

I’d ask

“why did you leave

only a shoe?

Why not a note?”


Karen Phillips, 2004, revised 2013