Poem for My Sister – Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead was born in Scotland in 1947. She studied art and later taught the subject in schools in Glasgow and Bristol. She began her writing career as a poet though she later ventured into drama writing revues and plays, also acting in them. She is known for feminist outlook and most of her plays and poems deal with women in some way or the other. Scotland too features prominently in her writing. She used an informal spoken language for her writing, especially the language of the marginalized Scottish people.
This is a poem about the poet’s twelve year old sister who likes to wear her outsized shoes and strut about in them. The girl has very nimble feet and the poet admires the way she plays hopscotch or peever which is the Scot word for hopscotch. The poet is worried that wearing her outsized high-heeled shoes will distort the child’s feet and she will lose her nimbleness of feet. The poet also voices her concern for her sister; she is a sensible girl now and that outlook shown not be lost. The poet seems to imply that she lacks good sense though she is much older than her sister.
Liz Lochhead often wrote about women’s issues and this poem too can be said to have that as its theme. Children often spend their time imitating the adults and that’s what the poet’s sister is doing. The poet uses high heeled shoes as a metaphor for life. The child is experimenting with it. The poet admires the way the child maneuvers herself while she plays hopscotch. She is confident; she does not miss even a step though she is shod in these outsized shoes. The poet hints to her sister the pitfalls of living somebody else’s life. She could get hurt. The poet holds herself as an example. Her “distorted feet, the callouses, odd patches of hard skin” are all evidences of her brushes with life. She wants to spare her sister these.
The poet indulgently watches her twelve year old sister trying on her high heeled shoes. The child declares that they fit her perfectly though she can barely balance on them. She is very thin and the shoes don’t suit her but that is no consequence to the child as she takes pleasure in seeing her feet shod in the latest fashion of the season.
The poet admires the felicity with which the child plays hopscotch. She hops and skips, never even once missing her mark or stepping on the line. Hopscotch is a simple game but even so the poet admires her sister when she plays.
The poet tries to caution her sister of the pitfalls of wearing these high heeled shoes. She has calloused feet and patches of hard skin and her feet are out of shape. She does not want her sister’s feet to turn out to be like that. High heeled shoes can be taken as a metaphor for life. The poet wants her sister to retain her sensible attitude and not get hurt. She does not want to see the child in her own state in life.
Reading this poem, we are struck by the warmth of the poet’s feeling for her twelve year old sister. Her tender concern for her well being and her use of high heeled shoes as a metaphor are the focal points in the poem.