Shopping with Beth


You buy something – black shoes –
not what you intended – you have
closets of black shoes and once

I saw them laid out along the hallway
polished by your husband – at least six
shiny black pairs – still, now

it’s time for me to buy something: friendship
is about equality: hiding from you
in the changing cubicle you throw

skirts, jerseys, blouses over the partition
and standing for the umpteenth time in front of
my reflection in the mirror I try

them on, then comb my hair, check my lipstick
and come out saying, like a poetry editor
‘Not quite what I was looking for, but nice’

and then, finally, I buy a black jersey
with a V neckline. I have heaps
of black jerseys, you have black shoes

we’ve just repeated ourselves, our
friendship is basic black, like the
little black dress, we regress

but in the last shop we choose
bikinis (as if we would wear them)
I choose black and you go for rainbow colours.

from Red Shoes, Te Mata Estate poet laureate 03 (Godwit, 2003), © Elizabeth Smither 2003, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004.

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