Black rocks peppered over the rich
lowland soil: budding wildflowers, murky puddles,
all kinds of earthly offerings.

The boy clings tightly onto his father like
a newborn ape: legs around waist, limbs
girding neck, body cradled on the side.

Something about being barefoot turns
the boy, unaccustomed to the rough faces of
nature, into an invalid, unable to walk
straight: every pebble so prickly they might
bruise his skin.

Strong men stand on their bare feet, the father says,
stomping on the mush, splashing dirt on his
parched adult ankles. He points to their
dog, paws softer than nectarines—Look!
Look at her chasing after the bird!

The son wiggles his legs, his
naked toes missing the warmth of
parquet, of socks and slippers.
Let us go back home, Papa!
Let us continue playing the
video games!

The dog sprints across the lowland; the father—
drawn to the mirage of a ragged child in
a vast green field: ashy knees, untucked uniforms,
a school by the hill—he sprints across, stepping
on a bed of twigs, crying, blood dripping
From his brown soles, wishing
his parents
had bought him shoes.

You are right, son, the father says.
Only poor men stand on their bare feet,
the prosperous, O the prosperous—
They walk on marble and rose petals,
places reserved
for those with soles
as soft and pink as yours.

Artwork by Jiwoon Pak

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