A photomorph of a wall mural of an elderly woman and a virtual subway tunnel

Mother, You Need Shoes

I would not have noticed her had the subway car not cleared
of people at Lexington Avenue.

She removed a tattered stocking cap and stuffed it
into a grimy army jacket.

She held a smudged white bag between her legs.

She reached into it and pulled out half a doughnut.

That was when I noticed her shoes.

The uppers had split from the soles; she wrapped
her feet in newspaper and rags.

I thought, Mother,  you need shoes.

I wondered if forty dollars would do.

I looked up and watched her untangle a lock of
matted grey hair.

She reached into her bag and found a bobby pin.

She styled the lock of hair into a bun

I had forty dollars.

It was for vitamins; specifically, anti-oxidants.

My body was rusting faster than a wet Ford.

The crows feet around my eyes whispered: erase us; your
happiness demands our absence.

I examined the old woman’s cracked and broken shoes;
they were useless for January in New York.

She closed her eyes, as if ready to savor a long warm ride.

Maybe she lives in the subway, I thought, like those people
in the documentary,  Dark Days.

If she never leaves the subway she doesn’t need new shoes!

My crow’s-feet said, ’Yes!’

But that can’t be right, I thought; an old woman, alone, with
nothing but a stale doughnut for dinner.

I saw myself stand, and watched as I took two twenties out
of my wallet.

Then I knelt and said, “Mother, you need shoes.”

She opened her eyes and smiled at me and
nodded in agreement.

“Will forty dollars do?”

“Yes,” she said, “God bless you.”

I gave her the money and returned to my seat, and
listened as my crow’s-feet maliciously threatened
to deepen and spread.


Rob Goldstein (c) 2014-2018 All Rights Reserved
First published 5/29/16
Revised 4/7/18









70 thoughts on “Mother, You Need Shoes

  1. Oh Rob, this was so beautiful. I swear it made me teary eyed. The bit with the crows-feet sassing the narrator made my mind bounce in another direction — which is great. Some jarring added to the story by preventing it seeming sentimental. (I don’t care for sugary tearjerkers.) Well done, my friend! And I love that image. Maybe we can re-purpose it for Lulu? Or am I just being greedy? 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You wrinkles are made beautiful by your kindness. Thank you for helping that woman. I hope a kind person will be there for me when I am needy. Even more, I hope I reach out to others.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I really enjoyed it very much, that’s because it is startling in its account of going without and suffering

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have never been able to ‘normalize’ the sight of our elderly living in destitution. I have never been able to convince myself that they deserve it. I have never seen this cruelty as anything other than the foul expression of a selfish people who have lost their way.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I read a very sad article recently saying because Japan has such an ageing population the old view of respect and honor toward the elders is dying out in favor of abandonment and neglect. I read also the same of China though more to do with population movement into cities, leaving the elderly alone with nobody. I do believe many people will succumb to believing the old should die to ‘help’ the young thrive. Like you I truly believe the elderly should be respected and admired for the rich lives they led and not infantalized or tossed aside, maybe that is why this spoke to me so much among other reasons

        Liked by 1 person

      4. True. There are some really good influences from America and other world powers but generally when you are a world power you gobble those who are not

        Liked by 1 person

      5. We’re no longer a World power. We are armed and dangerous but our military and our economic system was never the real source of our power.

        The real source of our power was the moral credibility that we had as a nation that championed human rights.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. And yet we think we are, which is scary. We may be like a former bully who takes on someone bigger and … well we know what happens there. You’re so right. Our humanitarianism is what can save us if we allow it to

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I would agree except I think ‘advanced civilization’ is not as most would deem it to be, (technology/usual modes of progress) and moreover, a spiritual and emotional evolution. I long for the Vulcan days ahead where greed is banished from the human psyche

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pleased with it. I’ve combined shots of a virtual subway with a shot of a graffiti drawing that I took with a blackberry. I’m glad you like it.


    1. Thank you. I think that we end to think that good deeds are completely good and selfish deeds are completely selfish, when in reality everything is always a mix of both. Thank you for reading the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The juxtaposition of the old lady in need of shoes and the person (perhaps you?) feeling their age; both need something, but one is a real need, the other is a want disguised as a need (to feel and look younger) – impressive, I such a strong visual from your words, had to share.

    Liked by 3 people

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