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Ode to Sneakers

Cleveland, Ohio

arranged in a pile, stinking like wildflowers,
used gym socks protruding

from their “mouths” like stamen.
Why is the stink of bacteria so alluring to me?

The accumulation of single cells in a dark,
damp sole, the minutiae of Adidas, Chucks,

& Nikes lying on the floor
with mute tongues. This is my secret

that stops being a secret
when I write it. There are four guys

living here, around twenty or twenty-five pairs
between them. Upstairs I hear them snoring,

masturbating, watching old war movies
while I lean low & lift a shoe to my nose

to inhale its bitter acid. I’m breathing in
a chronicle of the day’s many male

labors—running track, basketball, P90X—
with closed eyes, aware that this metonymy

can’t draw me to a field, or us any
closer, than taste or touch might.

It’s too dark. Too difficult to grasp anything beyond
myself—& even then, being invisible is exciting.

Just listening is exciting. Above me
thunder rolls, mattresses squeak, bombs

are going off. Down here, I’m face down in the chasm
between shame & denial, my erection

a bridge to a better, more sensual world.


Tory Adkisson recently received his MFA from The Ohio State University and currently attends the University of Georgia as a doctoral student in literature and creative writing. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Linebreak, Colorado Review, BOXCAR Poetry ReviewThird Coast, Boston Review, Drunken BoatBest New Poets 2012, and elsewhere.