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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Susana Praver-Pérez

The Cobbler Has No Shoes

(Dedicated to the late Dr. Lorna Breen)


How does it feel to blaze

unmapped trails in bare feet,

just a stethoscope

as compass?


How do you bear the weight of being

the final say, life or death in the balance–

praying you get it right.


Hands you cannot hold

grasp at life.

Fierce coughs,

fevered delirium.

No way to turn off

the volume.


Placing breathing tubes in the morning,

toe tags at night.

Some nightmares don’t dispel

at dawn.


What thought screamed before

scalpel sliced skin with precision

gleaned from years

of cutting

out a body’s ills?


What final thought before crimson






Who was there to hold and heal

the healer?


Who placed the toe tag

on the doctor’s unshod feet?


Brother poet teaches me

how to catch fireflies,

those glimmering sparks

that flicker in my mind.


He tells me, pull over when a muse trails you

in the fast lane–

No way you wanna mess with a muse.


But there’s no soft shoulder to pull over

on San Leandro Boulevard–

Just a high curb holding a river of weeds,

graffiti, and make-shift shelters multiplying

faster than the thistles and thorns.

There’s nothing soft about my route to work

through East Oakland.


I park in the employee lot and cross the street

dodging red light runners and rats

that leap like pole vaulters into air vents.


I’m late for work

but a muse caught a ride on my tail pipe,

held me in her silky hands, pinned my eyelids

open wide.


My gaze traces the corrugated bark of a palm tree

towering above the Fruitvale BART.


Not fifty feet away, Oscar Grant got shot


by a cop who said

he’d confused right from left

but really confused right from wrong

as he pulled his gun

on a handcuffed man

face down on the platform.


I’m late for work

but palm frond shadows

dance on the pavestones

and women who walked all the way from Guatemala


in the shade

wearing handwoven huipils

and high-heeled shoes from PayLess.


Girls with black braids

skip ‘round the fountain,

clap hands in blue water,

giggle their delight.


I scribble snapshots in my calendar,

in the leftover corners of days.

I might as well be the palm tree, the fountain,

the aroma of coffee

in the plaza.


I’m late for work

but the sun spells summer

on my shoulders,

brother poet’s voice

is in my ears,

and there are fireflies everywhere

I look.


Susana Praver-Pérez is an Oakland-based poet and memoirist. By day she works as a Physician Assistant and Associate Medical Director at La Clínica de la Raza in Oakland, California. By night she reads at poetry events in diverse venues from San Francisco to San Juan. By nature, she’s a storyteller, relating that to which she bears witness through her poetic lens. Susana’s first book of poetry, Hurricanes, Love Affairs and Other Disasters, is in the works.

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