These boots by the door are still caked
with hardened clay, their leather darkened
by water, still swelling, absorbing,
the flannel lining damp and pungent.
Clumps of mud stick to the kitchen floor,
discarded here and there from the field
that pulled and sucked until I was stuck.
I will not use the broom – I like the imprints
left behind, the way that visitors trip
on my oversized steel-toed boots and gasp –
how high the line of mud rides up,
how great the crumbs of dust.
Let me tell you about these boots,
I will say, about the field, the mire, the muck,
the slow, steady suction, the way I reached
for branches, the way the grasses bent and broke
when I pulled. Let me tell you again how I trembled,
how my hands hung idle, how a farmer
saw me, bent down to loosen my laces,
stretched out his hand, how I stepped from the sludge
in just my socks, mud oozing between my toes,
found a protruding rock, breathed deep,
“Thank God you came by when you did.”
I leave them here to remember the swale.
(Companion piece to The Swale)