Inscribed child's leather sole, Wallbrook, London, 290 CE
Now, suddenly, he was wearing shoes.
I remember that first pair. He was four
and, mimicking his namesake, waging war,
one-to-one combat in the race to lose.
He'd hurl them off while I cajoled, coaxed,
as if struggling to shed that part of him
I had dressed, had turned out, before hobbling
home defiant, swerving my hand. I wrote
his name in Greek on the side – precaution,
yes, but now, as he ran, he'd stamp himself
like a scribe on the city's sludge and silt.
One kick by the stream and the shoe was gone.
My legion moved on. I went home to Asia,
Ilium. His mother stopped writing. Each year
I swore I would go back. I never did.
By now he'd be married, maybe kids
who might drop their own shoes at the river.
Somewhere in those sky-crushed October streets
his name lingers like a relic, a leaf
pressed between wind-rattled stones, still caught there.
The leavings of our dust-sketched prints: Hector's.
This poem is from Ghost Passage (Shearsman), which was published this year.