Volume 27, Number 1

Legacy of My Kicks

By the time I entered high school
I had owned these Reeboks for so long
they literally began to turn blurple—
the toe of the shoe begun to curl upwards
like a 747 on the cusp of defying gravity—
I used to run in these Reeboks so often
the grips on the sole faded
and gravel imprints
were beginning to form instead.

I wanted to keep these kicks forever,
but this was my momma house,
and she wasn’t about to have me
“walkin round like no bum”
or so she phrased it.

That hooptie pair of shoes found the trash can—
the one outside, just for emphasis
and were replaced with a pair of
orange and silver Nike running shoes
that everyone in High School
turned their noses up at,
higher than the curl on the Reeboks
higher than my self of steam.
Even my friends said
my momma was bold for this one.

My momma would tell me
“I be wantin to get you Jordans like everybody else
but your foot too wide, boy,
they don’t make ’em in yo size.”

When those Nikes began
to lean sideways
like the banked corner of a race track,
the other kids laughed at how I could never walk straight,
raised their noses airplane high
assumed I couldn’t afford anything better,
didn’t know my feet were too wide
for the black boy walking around
with new shoes but no food stereotype,
didn’t know their own mommas
bought their expensive shoes
with the rent money—
that all their parents were in debt
from borrowing cash for the bills.

I learned my shoes were
not a fashion statement,
they were a single mother
in a west Detroit hood
house leaning sideways
the bags under
my mother’s eyes literally
turning blurple from working triple shifts.
it wasn’t that they didn’t make Jordans in my size,
it was they didn’t give my mother paychecks
in Jordan’s size.

a decade later
adult and grown out of my fat footfall
my closet is filled with thrift store kicks
straight out of 90s music videos.

my friends ask
If I’ve seen the new jordans
I say nah.
I say my feet don’t fit in that social construct.
I say they don’t make oppression in my size.
i’d buy my old Reeboks from a landfill
before spending my identity
on another man’s name.

my friends laugh at me,
buy their Jordans,
ask to borrow money for their water bills,
ask how I never fall behind on my rent.

I ask them
if they remember
my leaning Nikes.
they laugh again,
tell me i’ve come so far,
until I suggest that they buy a pair
that they might learn something.

—Justin Rogers