Judith Ortiz Cofer has poems, essays, and stories in recent issues of the Southern Review, Blackbird, Image, and the North American Review. Her books include: A Love Story Beginning in Spanish, poems, Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming a Writer, a collection of essays, (both from the University of Georgia Press), The Meaning of Consuelo, a novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and others. She teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.
Portent: Dream of Shoes #1
Her mother's book of dreams in Spanish says to dream of new shoes is an omen of imminent success or future luck, and her heart lifts. For many days she wonders — how far off in the future? Then she has another dream of shoes and everything changes. She dreams that she has lost her favorite pair, and must walk barefoot until she finds them. It is a penance, she can tell, for a priest in black robes follows her around the house as she empties closets, and when she peers under her bed, she sees the mummified remains of herself as a child among her keepsakes. The priest intones the Last Rites in Latin, sprinkles holy water over her bed, and they continue looking for her Chinese slippers. It is a long dream and it leaves her restless and fearful. The book of sueños says to dream of lost shoes indicates you are wasting your time reaching for unobtainable goals. Did you lose el amor? If you have lost your love, give up all esperanza. If in your dreams you cannot stop looking for your old zapatos, pray to your patron saint for fortitude, for this portents a life of solitude, restlessness, and longing.
Purgatory: Dream of Shoes #2
Anyone she ever slighted, shunned, dismissed, harmed, or loved not well enough — they are all there, waiting. In their practical-woman walking shoes, in their steel-toed I-am-the-man boots, in their fuck-me stilettos, in their never-will-you-own — pair-of-these buttery Italian loafers — they form a queue to claim their free shine. And on her knees, head down, yoked to the redundant labor of guilt, she works until the sun burns them away — her mostly insubstantial, persistent regrets. The acrid smell of tannin lingers on her skin all day.