Einstein, the Shoemaker


“If I had known they were going to do this, I
would have become a shoemaker.”
–Albert Einstein, after the United States
dropped atomic bombs on Japan.

In supple leather he might have formed,

rich in full-grain brown

or in sinuous sheen of black

stretched across his workbench to tap

oxford, boot, wingtip,

a scuttling cloud in any blue afternoon

passing the open window of his shop.


If he paused, it was to watch

not so much the shadows flickering

through the glass in the summer heat,

but the figures that made them,

the only figures he saw passing,

their bursts of laughter igniting

the graceful sweaty step

worked by hammer and awl

lingering, blooms of pollen in the street.


If he paused, with a shoetack at his lip,

it was only to contemplate,

reflected in that light,

how the hand-made arch could hold

the curve of bone, the caressed

skin its lustre, the shapely fit

model the taper of the toe

pointing its way over ground

where a life is walked,

stitched, oiled, dressed,

not needing, from one end of that sole

to the other, more sanctity for it.


Jessica Jopp lives in Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in Seneca Review, Denver Quarterly, and The Spoon River Poetry Review.