When I Taught Her How to Tie Her Shoes

by Penny Harter

A revelation, the student
in high school who didn’t know
how to tie her shoes.

I took her into the book-room, knowing
what I needed to teach was perhaps more
important than Shakespeare or grammar,

guided her hands through the looping,
the pulling of the ends. After several
tries, she got it, walked out the door

empowered. How many lessons are like
that—skills never mastered in childhood,
simple tasks ignored, let go for years?

This morning, my head bald from chemotherapy,
my feet farther away than they used to be
as I bend to my own shoes, that student

returns to teach me the meaning of life:
to simply tie the laces and walk out
of myself into this sunny winter day.