Archive for the ‘Incident Report’ Category


May 13, 2009

(First printed in Life, Love and Unions, Lazara Press, 1987)

The Tuesday shopping trip was six residents and one staff.
There were two phone calls; the first one said:
One of your old women is at the Super-Valu
in slippers.
I said no problem, she had gone shopping
with five other residents and one staff.
But she’s in slippers! the caller cried,
and I understood there was no use
asking is she lost,
explaining about sore feet
or saying anything else –
there is something intrinsically horrifying
about old women in slippers.
A shopkeeper phone a little later
to be told irritably if he must do something,
he should page the staff person
who would come and lead away from his premises
an old woman in slippers.
He did and she did.
But the oddness lingers on.
Why not simply ask what she wanted,
where she was going,
if she knew how to get there,
why she wasn’t wearing shoes?
Why this urgency to find her keeper?
Were they afraid for her?
Old ladies are not so fragile.
Were they afraid of her?
Old ladies are not so frightening.

Or maybe they are.
Maybe their age and slippers
speak of endless work and worry.
Maybe younger people see
the acres of washed floors,
miles of baked bread,
oceans of chicken soup
that make up the material basis of their lives.
Or maybe they are mortified by mortality;
offended by vulnerability.

Or maybe it’s simply that there are not enough of them.
I daydream of stores
terrorized by old women in slippers;
shopping malls emptied of shoppers
who are racing out to their cars screaming:
Old women!
In slippers!

What if they invaded banks –
forcing the bank managers to cower under mahogany desks
while hold-up men run out crying:
Help! Police!
Old women!
In slippers!
There would be men tumbling out of pubs
gasping in terror.
They went to watch poor women writhe
and got instead
old women in slippers.

And what if they all took to the streets
in broad daylight?
Call out the motorcycle punks!
The old women are out in slippers!

Did you see, did you see?
Was it an old woman?
Wash she wearing slippers?
Maybe it was just runners?
Please god, maybe it was just runners?
There went another one!!
She was old!
She wore slippers!
For the old women in slippers
have taken to the streets.

January, 1987

Copyright 2009, Helen Potrebenko. For permissions please visit