Karen Mandell – YARD SALE

Yard Sale

Useless, I could tell instantly.

Baby toys in plastic orange and red, grimy fry pans,

bent hollowware burning in the sun.

I walk in past the woman and the baby sitting on the concrete stoop.

I’m on my way out before I see the books piled on the grass,

their pages soft with age, the damp dried out of them.

The Sun Also Rises, the striped Scribner edition.

Do I have this one at home?

I crouch down and turn limp pages, not reading, brushing off dust,

unwinding a tendril of cobwebs from my finger.

The odor of paper stored in boxes too long.

This one’s not worth it, broken spine, even for a quarter.

I put fusty Hemingway down.

The baby cries, his voice quavering and scratchy.

The woman picks him up and says it’s time for a nap,

you’re ready aren’t you, you’ll lie down for a little while.

I stand up, the sun hot on my hair.

I want to lie down, a baby, in a darkened room with only a thin cover.

An opened window with a fan going somewhere.

I’d close my eyes even if I didn’t really want to

because there’s not much fight left in me right now.

The baby whimpers.

I forget what city I’m in,

whether it’s Minneapolis or Boston before that or

Chicago back even further.

I’m a burnished nub, everything rubbed out of me,

clarified. Even so, I have to get back to the car,

do the things that make it go,

add on to myself the crumbled pieces

that fell off and lie there, in the grass.

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