Ladies In Waiting

Waiting on Words

The Red Shoe Book Project by Annell Livingston


About The Dead Woman and Her Dream of Red Shoes

The dead woman didn’t like the darkness, wanted color.
She thought about red shoes.
Thought she could use them to move with ease from here
           to there, go anywhere she might please
           (she was restless, filled with feckless ideas).
The dead woman knew she was dead, of course.
Wanted only to dig toes in whatever fields she might fallow,
          callow of meaning, buried in shallow sand on narrow spit
          of land that pointed to the sea,
          but never quite reached it.
The dead woman thought because she was dead,
          she could dance like Mr. Bojangles, clicking
          her heels to impossible heights, alighting
          back home with mere flick of boney ankles.
She planted dreams, like kisses, on cheeks of small children,
          thought they would bloom, fill rooms
          with sweet fragrance.
Then had to watch them perish, a slow lingering death,
          never given breath of permanent existence.
With nothing of nurture to keep them alive, they swiftly
          wilted, tilted in leaning towers of dimming powers,
          collapsing one on another.
Soon crashed with huge splash into sea that swallowed them
          whole in cold liquid bosom.
The dead woman sighed, she had so much time to fill.
Knew she must release illusive red shoes.
Must plant bare feet in rich moist soil, actually do toil
          of feeding her dreams, nurture them daily,
          bringing each one to its own fruition.
The dead woman knew she must begin again.

More About The Dead Woman and Her Dream of Red Shoes

The dead woman couldn’t see her feet, of course.
She couldn’t feel them either.
So, she dreamed of dancing in red shoes, through eternity.
She dreamed of dancing with a pauper, a prince, and a political
          appointee, a chef, a truck driver, an accountant,
          a research biologist, and a university professor.
But, none of them noticed because she was a dead woman.
The dead woman laughed, she sang, she threw herself
          into the dance. She moved.
She knew she was no more than a fleeting whisper, momentary
          vapor, a slip of air to be brushed aside with flick
          of a finger, a shake of the head.
The dead woman went right on dancing, trying to be whatever
          was needed.
She so wanted to be more than invisible, more than dead.
The dead woman dreamed through eternity and into the next,
          always dancing in red shoes.
The color excited her, spoke of passion, pursuit, put-off prolonged
          dreams seeking fulfillment.
She dreamed of sneakers, velvet slippers, flats and strappy
          stilettos, died leather moccasins, and hard vinyl crocs,
          all of them red: red like blood, like living.
The dead woman dreamed that all women everywhere wore
          red shoes: maids to matriarchs, dancing their dreams
          to completion.
She dreamed through two eternities, until the Universe was filled
          with laughing women, all moving toward individual
          dreams in red shoes.
Satisfied with her creation, the dead woman rested.

Elizabeth Crawford – for the Red Shoe Book Project.**

**This is part of The Red Shoe Book Project, an artist’s vision conceived by Annell Livingston. She generously asked several of us to write poems to be included in her project. Mine is above and is the result of two different poems combined in the form of Dead Man Poetry created by Marvin Bell

As Annell has explained, “I got the idea for The Red Shoe Book Project from the book, The Madwoman in the Attic. It has quite a bit about the symbol of the red shoes and the creativity of women. As I began to discuss red shoes with women, I realized that so many do not know the meaning behind them…so it seemed the perfect project.

I am very pleased because the writings I have received are all so different. Thus as I had hoped, it will be a jewel with many facets. There are two ideas behind artists books. One is that they be very inexpensive, and democratic, and the other is the idea to make it precious. And the Red Shoe Book Project will be both. ”

Thank you Annell, for the invitation and the opportunity to write about a subject dear to my heart: Women’s History.


  1. Thank you Elizabeth the work is wonderful…and you have helped me so much on this project! I am so pleased you participated in the Red Shoes Project.

    • Thank you for the invitation, Annell. It allowed me to find the poem, buried in the other two poems, and to write about two of my favorite subjects, myth and women’s history. I really like the looks of your illustrations. They speak of living, and invite each of us to dance to her own music.


  2. All of them red, red like blood, red like living.

    And this:

    “Wanted only to dig toes in whatever fields she might fallow,
    callow of meaning, buried in shallow sand on narrow spit
    of land that pointed to the sea,
    but never quite reached it.”

    What a delight to have discovered your writing, through Annell! She pointed me to your blog, as I’m also part of her Red Shoe project.

    You are a wordsmith, I am caught up in your words, transported. Thank you for sharing them!!


    • Terresa, and I am glad to have found your post as well. The Dead Man Form often uses emjambment as a part of its structure. I sort of fell into it, and got a bit lost for a while. That is only another aspect of passion and creativity.

      Love the wordsmith comment. That was a nickname I wore in college. It brings back fond memories.

      And Annell’s project has far reaching content and knowledge within its pages. A wonderful experience, yes? Thanks for visiting and glad we will both take part in this endeavor.


  3. Elizabeth, your post looks great! I remember this poem quite well and it is perfect for the book.


    • Hello, my friend. I find all of this exciting and revitalizing in so many ways. And so pleased that we will share these pages together. Yeah, for us, for Annell, and all those women out there who wear, or even wish to wear red shoes.


  4. The dead are so impertinent. That’s why we need them. Beautiful post!

    • Sandy, lol, yes they certainly can be all of that and more, if we allow it. I like this form because it opens doors in an unusual fashion and leads down paths sometimes gone unexplored altogether. Thanks for the visit and for your delightful comments,


  5. Helen

    I am honored to have participated in Annell’s project with YOU!

    • Thank you Helen, am glad you feel that way. Do you have a blog where I could repay the visit?


  6. This is an incredible project!

    • Couldn’t agree with you more, Sandy. It really has so much to say, and so many different ways to say it.


  7. I have by chance written about a woman who envisions her death while wearing red shoes. This is for NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month. Vivinfrance referred me to your project. Hope you will visit and try on my shoes (poem)…

    • Welcome Gerry. I did take a look and liked your far more humorous take on the red shoes. However, this project was conceived by Annell Livingston, and I am only one of many who participated in it. It’s been a very exciting and enlightening experience. My NaPoWriMo pieces can be found at my main poetry blog:
      Thanks for the visit,


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