Ken Wells


The Investment Bankers Shoes - Poem by Ken Wells

The investment banker left his office
turned off the light
and entered the elevator

A long day
had turned into a night of work

An important account

He was 52 now, and his hair was greying slightly, but this only lent distinction to his appearance

Tall, dignified, impeccably groomed

The elevator reached the ground
and he left the glass and chrome skyscraper
and walked into the cold, clean air of the night

He straightened the jacket of his $2,000 navy blue tailored pinstriped business suit, and his carefully knotted burgundy silk tie, and began the walk to the garage where his Mercedes Benz waited

His shoes, polished like black diamonds, made the only sound in the deserted financial district

He liked the satisfying click of the heels on the cement

Just that morning
an old man
had shined his shoes
for him
at his desk while he read the financial times

and now the shoes told the world who he was

He took a breath of the cold air and let his $1500 briefcase swing slightly in rhythm as he walked

The echo of his shoes cut through the cold air, saying authority and dignity and power and success and respect

He enjoyed the sensation of well-being that came with a job well-done and with the obvious glances of admiration and envy that came his way from the few passers-by

Then he heard a sound

'Change, sir...change, sir...'

The regular cry that all city-dwellers knew

He tightened his grip on his briefcase and saw the source

A young man sat on a step
in front of a brownstone
wearing an old sweatshirt
even older jeans

His feet were bare and dirty - his hair tangled - his eyes sad and angry and broken

The banker stopped and pulled out a dollar

He gave it to the young man

The young man's eyes were fixed on the ground

The banker looked down

His shoes, expensive and new and so shiny they looked like mirrors
The beggar's bare feet, just a few inches away

The young man started to cry

The banker stepped back and resumed his walk

The young man's crying continued - insistent, exhausted and broken

The banker continued walking

The young man's sobs remained in his mind

He walked two more blocks, but the sobs remained

Growing louder and taking up room in his mind

Banging against the walls of the priveleged bastion of his corporate identity

He placed his hands over his ears, but the noise increased

He reached the garage, but the noise had become a pandemonium

The banker stopped and the echoes of his sleek, gleaming shoes died away

For five minutes he hesitated, moving back and forth in his mind but remaining still

An agony of indecision

He looked at his own shoes

And thought - his thoughts manifesting in the din of wails and sobs filling his brain

Then he turned around and retraced his steps

He found the homeless man, still sobbing

The homeless man stopped and looked up

'It's your turn'

The banker looked down again at his shoes

The noise inside his mind had stopped

The cuffs of his hand-tailored suit brushed the leather. He clenched his toes inside them

Then he sighed

He knelt down on the pavement, and with manicured hands began to untie his right shoe

The young man grew quiet and stared at the whiter-than-white shirt cuff and the monogrammed gold cuff links and the pinstriped suit sleeve and the executive's hands as they finished untying the polished black dress shoe

Then the banker sighed again

He slowly slid his heel out of the right shoe - and for a moment hesitated

then the rest of his foot slid out of its expensive leather home

Then he removed the left shoe as well

The banker looked down at his feet, his toes traceable inside the thin black Brooks Brothers business socks

The shoes sat alone

neat and shining, separated from their owner

Then he sighed again and reached his hand under the tailored cuff of his suit. He reached the top of his sock and peeled it off. In a moment, he had pulled off his other sock. He dropped the socks, one by one, on top of the shoes

The banker stood up, barefoot in his pinstriped business suit and carefully tied necktie

Then he sighed again

He unfastened his cufflinks and slid his Rolex off his wrist

He untied his silk necktie and pulled it off. Then with shaking manicured hands, he unbuttoned his pinstriped suit jacket and slid his arms out of it. The homeless man took the items

Then he unbuttoned his red braces and pulled them out of his trousers

With a sigh, his pinstriped trousers fell in a puddle of expensive hand-tailored wool on the cold ground

Then his Brooks Brothers shorts and t-shirt joined them

The investment banker stood naked on the freezing street in the middle of the financial district

The homeless man pulled out a pair of scissors and picked up each item of clothing. With quick movements, he sliced through the wool of the suit and the silk tie and socks and the cotton shirt

A heap of ribbons were all that remained

He threw everything into a garbage can and handed the executive a pair of filthy jeans and an old sweatshirt. The executive put them on and sat

Everything was gone. Except the shoes

He picked up one of the gleaming black dress shoes and handed it to the former investment banker

The former banker picked up the shoe

An old woman was wakling towards them

He lifted his shoe

A quarter landed in the shoe, and found its place in the small worn space created by the foot of the former banker who was no more


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Read poems about / on: change, respect, success, hair, car, city, sad, power, work, night, light, smile



Poem Submitted: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Poem Edited: Thursday, December 2, 2004


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