The poetry section of Worn Out Shoes offers another perspective of our travels. In most of the poems, Kate takes one specific detail or memory and writes about her take on it, exploring its different angles. At the end of each, there is a photo by Ryan to illustrate the poem’s content. Enjoy!

The Hidden Badlands

Brown and brittle
December prairie
rolls and undulates
right on through
the horizon.

With no warning
the earth collapses
into canyons
of striped rock
marbled with a dusting
of snow.

It seems a barren
a trap
to ensnare
an unassuming

Do not be deceived.
Be still
and watch.

Finches flutter,
solitaires soar,
and chickadees chirp
their cheerful hellos.

A squirrel scampers
then leaps
onto a lush green branch
of pine.

Despite their name,
given by others,
they are a sustaining source
for generations of life.


Horsethief Trail

We pull off the road
and leave our car behind
to slip between
two boulders
and step over
the threshold
of the trail.

A downy blanket
embraces the forest,
a ribbon of untouched beauty
winds ahead, inviting us in.

All around us
a hush echoes,
rays of frigid sun
shine off marbled ponderosa bark,
illuminating tiny tracks
left by a mink,
perhaps on a trip to the icy stream
we walk along.

Leaving the path,
we climb up a craggy hill
to perch on a rock
and gaze out
at the world of trees below us.

Patches of snow
and fallen logs
reveal themselves
as we peer between the trees.

We climb down,
taking a new route.
Descending, a doorway in the mountain
fiercely swirling snow
into the gray sky
it has nothing to cling to—
around or behind.

The door looks to be a portal
to a mysterious realm.
It is alluring as it beckons us forward.
As we step through,
we realize
we’ve been walking in that realm
the entire time,
experiencing first hand
how real the magic is.


Mannekin Pis

Man oh Manny,
you really had to go.
Four hundred years of one steady flow.

You don’t seem to care
that people can see.
Don’t you want some privacy?

My only request
for the sake of this town,
is that when you finish, put the toilet seat down.


Hidden Treasure

Hop off the bus and look around,
Tower Bridge is easily found.
While passing through Trafalgar Square
observe the lions’ stately stares.

Spin around the London Eye
to see the city scrape the sky.
Watch Houses of Parliament wield their power
while Big Ben tolls at every hour.

Near St. Paul’s stretches Millennium Bridge,
Be sure to look down at each thin ridge.
There are treasures there easily missed,
not found on any tourist’s list.

Tiny wads of discarded gum
have been shaped and painted for a bit of fun.
Once forgotten, dismissed as trash,
they’ve found a home in an artist’s cache.


Merely Mir

Groups shuffle past
oil-painted faces
frozen in frames,
staring out
at each passerby
who absently takes in
their features
and scarcely scans
their golden name plates


They pass through
sitting rooms
dining rooms
bed chambers
and libraries.

From family trees
centuries-long branches
reach out
but can’t
get past
the glass
that now encases them.

their roots stood firm,
growing into a home
for generations
to live their lives
in a palace meaning peace.

the castle is a museum,
as disconnected from its visitors
as it is from its former inhabitants.
A part of a holiday,
a piece of an itinerary.


Nature’s Rule

I wander through
hollowed halls
covered in tapestries
woven by brittle vines
and decaying leaves.

My feet sunk
into plush carpet
of rich soil and fragrant grass.

I find myself
in a grand ballroom,
or perhaps a kitchen,
a whisper of stairs clings
to the crumbling brick wall.

The room
once closed off to the outside
is now open to the elements
to hold court.

Tangled branches
offer their winged subjects
places for shelter and rest.
Breezes loosen seeds
from dried flowers,
scattering them about the earth.
They take root, new life rising up
to join the old.

I watch through the fog,
marveling at the harmony
of nature’s law.


Ded Moroz

Deep in the Pushcha Forest
Father Frost greets us,
clad in flowing
white and golden robes,
his snowy beard
nearly sweeping the floor.
We succumb to the magic
of the legend,
the trees,
and the faces lit up around us
as he and Snegurochka
lead us around
their wintry, wooden palace.
Passing gardens for wishes
and letters from children,
we forget for an hour
that we are adults.


El Camino

goes the satchel
as it sinks down
into the dirt,
narrowly avoiding
the mud from that morning’s
Galician rain.
The pilgrim follows,
crossing his feet,
one leather shoe
over the other,
a hole worn through
the heel, exposing
his skin to the elements.
He looks up
at the stone and wood shrine
in front of him.
He made it.
Murmuring a prayer
of thanks
and sorting through thoughts,
he idles,
knowing when he picks himself up,
a journey has ended.

So it goes
for a millennia,
sole after soul
arriving to a place
physically transformed through centuries,
yet as a symbol remains
as solid and unbreaking
as a scallop shell.

sounds the Osprey
as it makes contact
with pavement,
just missing
the puddle from the rainstorm
hours earlier.
I follow,
sitting cross-legged,
one North Face shoe
over the other,
the rubber soles wearing down.
Soon I’ll need
to buy another pair.
I look up
at the mammoth structure of stone
towering above the plaza.
I’m here.
I begin to whisper a prayer
of thanks,
but my breath falters,
not able to find words.
I linger,
when I leave, I will no longer be a pilgrim,
a chapter will end.


The Shell

Look —
Each line
bursts down
like inverted sun rays
at the calcified cathedral.
Straight paths,
everyone of them.

Feel —
Tracing the indentations,
each bump and groove
is a hill, rock, river traversed,
beer, blister, dinner shared.

Listen —
Not to the ocean
or the rush
of circulating blood,
but to the stories
centuries of pilgrims are telling.


Flechas Amarillas

On your right—
On your left—
Only one way to go—
It´s a flecha fiesta—
painted boulders,

We come to a fork:
gray stones,
mossy branches,
wired rails.
Where are the flechas?
Fast asleep,
it´s time for siesta.


Epithet to Medusa

Are you aware
of the irony
of your preservation
in stone?
Sinuous snakes—
your only companions—
in a writhing frenzy.
Your staring eyes—
more damaged than before—
gaze unfocused,
no Iris,
no Pupil—
just you
and your memories
before your life
was as tangled
as your serpentine tresses.



Winds whip
An assault felt
only by ears and skin.
To the eyes,
nothing is disturbed.
Not the barren brown landscape,
nor the mountain that sits
at its end.
The peak begins
to glow.
Its ethereal white
becomes the blue of a frozen breeze.
After a moment
the edges transform
to a gentle yellow
moving inward
before settling to rose,
casting the valley in shadow.
This ritual has occurred
before time began ticking,
before prayer flags fluttered
and brassy wheels spun,
creating their music in the mossy water.
It will continue long after
time, flags, and wheels have ceased all movement.



We make a roadside pit stop
to glance at Karola glacier.
We are allotted five minutes
that we stretch to ten.
A time frame specifically set
to allow for just enough seconds to snap
a picture for haphazard scrollers.

its time enough to hear
the rushing streams released from the ice,
to witness the ancient water gushing down and away,
converging together
to carve new rivers in stone,
carrying away nature’s SOS.


A View

Pleated curtains
create a fringe
above a black trimmed,
recessed window.
The top tapers
into a wider base
that goes unnoticed
at a glance.
A breeze ruffles
the tattered fabric
releasing a whisper
of a dance.


Bolbometopon muricatum

Limbs tired,
we’ve been out
for an hour.

We push up
our masks,
pop out
our snorkels.

Go back?

But first,
one more look.

Gear back in place,
we duck under.

A herd
of trunkless
blunders by,
trumpeting silently.

Is my mask fogged?

A parade of parrot
fish stretches across
the reef’s drop-off, crunching coral.

They weave in and out
of one another, grazing,
creating clouds of sand that drift

up to shore creating
paradisiacal beaches
with swaying palms and birdsong.

We gaze at the school, mesmerized
by their elephantine mass, while
their colorful cousins
the size of our
hand dart

The stampede swims out to the depths
as we turn to swim inland.


Musings from an Amateur Ornithologist II

Hidden between trees
in the shadowy dawn
rustles a millipede,
gliding over dry leaves,
serpentine, but for his baleen legs
swinging in tandem.

In the canopy,
a regal song rings out,
piercing the morning air
with its vibrato.
The bird,
holding court in paradise,
flutters from branch to branch
dancing for us onlookers,
aware, yet determined to remain aloof.
A flash of red,
a glint of blue,
swooping to the ground,
then flying off to the latticework above,
leaving us awestruck,
reflecting on the privilege
of being granted an audience.

the thousand-legged jester
continues his crawl
across the forest floor.



(Published in A Shanghai Poetry Zine – September 2019)

What we cannot faithfully communicate,
art can.
Art alludes to what words elude.
All inclusive.

in art, as in speech,
it still may not convey
total truth.
You must search for the meaning,
the message,
the misunderstanding.

Take the wayang.
Every inch is a symbol.




Each burst of color
is a burst of meaning,
a truth
about the nature of humans.

Yet, it hides
behind a screen.
Displaying its truth
in shadow.

16083752 2

Musings From an Amateur Ornithologist

An abundance of feathered creatures
stand against stone.
Tethered and flightless
they display curved beaks
with sharp points
grown smooth by age.

Why birds?

They don’t understand
the significance of this once holy place
buried by jungle, claimed and reclaimed.
Or perhaps it is we who don’t understand,
placing too much significance on our mark
and perceive our time to be much grander
than the score in sandstone that it is.


A Kelimutu Fairytale

Long ago in ages past
The sky liquified
and poured itself into craters.
Now it lies,
whispering breaths of steam
that float and morph
among ribbons of breeze.

A piece of rock breaks away
from the wall and tumbles
into the depths.

Sulphuric toxins wrap
around the rough edges,
acidic fingers dissolving
it as it submerges.

The surface is still
once more.

Pulled from the pages
of Brothers Grimm,
The lake is an ethereal queen
with a witch inside.


Rinca Holiday

Growing lethargic
in the tropical heat
I scout out a sunny patch
to bathe in the rays,
creeping slowly to a shady bit
under the trees
when the sun begins
to roast.

On this island
friends surround me.
I mingle,
poking fun
and enjoying
the company.


I snap to attention
in unison with the throng.
Is it my next meal?
A snack?

just a brick.
Thrown for the amusement
of the crowd of humans
that stands around
day after day watching
me and my bank
live life.
I get up and amble toward one
She jumps back in fear,
I smirk.
Just like the brick,
it works every time.


Wu Yuan at Qing Ming Jie

(Published in Brush Talks – June 2020)

Faded walls
line overflowing
cobblestone footpaths,
while a jade river catching the sunlight
meanders lazily between.
We step in and out
of forgotten mansions,
forgotten lives,
forgotten relevance.
Like it’s history,
we move on.

Too early
for rapeseed,
we sit contentedly,
looking out
at the emerald terraces
spread before us,
a former reality
before a tourist season
before fame
when Wu Yuan was just
a sprawling



Swaying willows
dip their tresses
into the water.
Ripples waltz,
lightly nudging
the looming lotus forest.
Long ago, a buddha sat atop
the beautiful bloom
seeping wisdom
from its roots.

Now, in the languid air
sits a pagoda twelve years restored
wrapped in neon lights.
Inside, waste baskets
collect their fill of drink cups and snack wrappers.
Today’s garish demands ignore the lotus’ voice.

Listen carefully,
its echoes are still heard
among the dancing ripples.
Not lost, just waiting
to be heard again.