Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ode to Jeremy's Shoes

Happy Poetry Friday! Make sure to swing by My Juicy Little Universe where Heidi is hosting this week's round-up.

Last weekend, hundreds of my friends were out marching. I was not. I was at temple with my thirteen year-old friend, Jeremy, celebrating his call to Torah. His family invited me to read something in the service.

I've been watching Jeremy grow up. He's gone from the adorable kid that is open to every question and conversation from me, his neighbor lady, to a composed thirteen year old young man.

The Neighbor Lady & Bar Mitzvah Boy

Because I am a poetry person, I needed a really good poem!

Fortunately, I knew from J's mom that the theme of the reception was going to be shoes....sneakers to be precise because J loooooooves himself some good kicks.

A poem about sneakers.....for a young man. Well, there's only one that fits the bill---er foot.

Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes
By Gary Soto 

They wait under Pablo’s bed,
Rain-beaten, sun-beaten,
A scuff of green At their tips
From when he fell In the school yard.
He fell leaping for a football
That sailed his way.
But Pablo fell and got up,
Green on his shoes,
With the football Out of reach.
(read the rest here)

Mr. Soto's perfect poem became a frame to hang words of a personalized Jeremy poem.

Ode to Jeremy’s Shoes
By a neighbor who loves watching you grow up

They wait by Jeremy’s front door,
weather beaten, teen-age things
A scuff of dark
at their tips
From where he swerved
at the bus stop.
He faked out a friend
dribbling his basketball
and his kicks
couldn’t keep up
with his speed.
Neither did his friend.

Now it is night
Jeremy is in bed listening
to his parents chatting--
reminding Ethan to feed Speedy.
His shoes, twin pets
that snuggle his toes,
guard their home.
He should have showered,
But he didn’t
(Dirt rolls from his palm,
Blades of grass
Tumble from his hair.)
After touch football
at Boy Scouts.

He wants to be
Like his shoes,
A little dirty
From the street,
A little worn
from racing to Religious School
and martial arts
and the water fountain.
It’s a bit of giving up
of his childhood
to get all these places
where he’s becoming a man,
And his shoes get him
There. He loves his shoes,
Laces like rigging of an explorer’s ship
Rubber like
A lifeboat on rough sea.
Jeremy is tired,
sinking into bed
His eyes close after
learning Hebrew and
He needs a whole night
of sleep
to cool his shoes,
The tongues hanging
out, exhausted.

Mazel Tov, Jeremy


  1. Oh, Linda! How special to have such a wonderful friendship with J and join in his Bar Mitzvah. Your ode to his shoes is perfect... I love how you crafted the imitation.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your friend, Jeremy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Linda, this is so very lovely! What a special friendship and a special poem. Thank you for sharing it. And I LOVE the pic. :)

  4. These "Tennis Shoe" poems are terrific–what a special friend you are, thanks for sharing them Linda!

  5. What wonderful connections you make between his shoes and his busy life, his becoming a man. Nicely done, Linda!

  6. Linda, what a wonderful gift you gave Jeremy and his community! I wish I had the nerve to write and share poems about/with people I love. I'm much better at sharing with strangers who later become community than with my already-loved-ones. This poem is amazing--so personal!

    1. I can relate....which is why I didn't strike out on my own with a completely original poem. Gary Soto had my back. I hope he doesn't mind.

  7. These poems--both, equally--made me cry. So grounded in the day-to-day, speaking so loudly in their lively, exhausted tongues about the serious and not-so-serious concerns of growing up. You took something beautiful and made it moreso.

  8. What a good idea to base one poem on another--& I love the personal details!

  9. Linda -- I believe your poem was the most precious gift Jeremy received for his Bar Mitzvah and it will be remember by him and his family long after the guests at the reception are gone, and the thank you notes have been written. Such lovely words describing him and his passion. I truly feel as if I know him. "And his shoes get him there" is one of my favorite lines. If only our shoes could talk. -- Christie @

  10. As a neighbor you had the perfect spot from which to watch Jeremy grow--not too close, not too far. Well done, and a perfect gift to remember.

  11. Great mentor poem (my tongue is hanging out in exhaustion, too) and what a lucky neighbor to have this excellent update.

  12. Jeremy is so lucky to have you as a neighbor! Your wonderful poem is a gift he will treasure always. Thank you for sharing it with us! (And for reminding me of Gary Soto's poem. It is a perfect mentor!)

  13. You get an A+ on your homework assignment, Linda! You found just the right poem to morph into your own, to express just what you wanted/needed to say, to define your neighborly relationship in a way that was honest and loving, and not at all cheesy. :) What a wonderful, wonderful gift—to Jeremy (AND his parents)!

  14. What an honor and a blessing! And Jeremy sounds like quite the young man to have as a neighbor. This poem is just lovely!

  15. I love your ode to such an interesting pair of shoes and the boy who wears them! What a special gift to share!

  16. I absolutely adore this poem, and I'm sure Jeremy and his family did too. So personal, yet so universal to teen-aged boys. I love this "Laces like rigging of an explorer’s ship
    Rubber like
    A lifeboat on rough sea." and the end with the tongues hanging out. What a wonderful gift!

  17. Wow, Linda, you hit a homerun with this one. I imagine your sneakers have some metaphoric skid marks on them from running around the bases. What a great poem from Gary Soto and how wonderful that you personalized it so beautifully. What a special gift! I'm sure he and his parents were thrilled--and how lucky are they to have a poet-in-residence in the neighborhood!

  18. What a wonderful keep-it-forever gift. Super-special - for Jeremy and you. (And I love your photo!)

  19. Your poem affected life?! Yes, you can share your lovely poem and its great "after story" with the world... Submit now on


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!