Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ode to the Yard Sale

Good one today on The Writer's Almanac.

A toaster,
A plate
Of pennies,
A plastic rose
Staring up
To the sky.
It's Saturday
And two friends,
Merchants of
The salvageable heart,
Are throwing
Things onto
The front lawn –
A couch, a beanbag,
A table to clip
Poodles on,
Drawers of
Potato mashers,
Spoons, knives
That signaled
To the moon
For help.
Rent is due
It's somewhere
On the lawn,
Somewhere among
The shirts we've
Looked good in,
Taken off before
We snuggled up
To breasts
That almost made
Us gods.
It'll be a good
Day, because
There's much
To sell,
And the pitcher
Of water
Blue in the shade,
Clear in the
Light, with
The much-handled
Scotch the color
Of leaves
Falling at our
Shoes, will
Get us through
The afternoon
Rush of old
Ladies, young women
On their way
To becoming nurses,
Bachelors of
The twice-dipped
Tea bag. It's an eager day:
Wind in the trees,
Laughter of
Children behind
Fences. Surely
People will arrive
With handbags
And wallets,
To open up coffee
Pots and look
In, weigh pans
In each hand,
And prop hats
On their heads
And ask, "How do
I look?" (foolish
To most,
Beautiful to us).
And so they
Come, poking
At the clothes,
Lifting salt
And pepper shakers
For their tiny music,
Thumbing through
Old magazines
For someone
They know,
As we sit with
Our drinks
And grow sad
That the ashtray
Has been sold,
A lamp, a pillow,
The fry pans
That were action
Packed when
We cooked, those things
We threw so much
Love on, day
After day,
Sure they would mean something
When it came
To this.

"Ode to the Yard Sale" by Gary Soto, from New & Selected Poems. © Chronicle Books, 1995. 


Enbrethiliel said...


What do our possessions mean in the end? We're not supposed to cling to them, I know, but they seem to have a way of clinging to us. And for some reason, this poem reminds me of this year's set of mommy blog posts about having to leave a distressed child at school for the first time in his life.

Pentimento said...

Heh, Enbrethiliel, I never read those posts. I guess no one can accuse me of being a Catholic-mommy-blogger.

Enbrethiliel said...


Back to the poem now . . .

I think it's very unsettling to get to the point at which the things which have enriched our lives so much have to be given up. When one is having a yard sale, there is obviously a good reason: one needs the money more than the things; one is moving somewhere else and must travel lightly; etc. Such an event marks the end of an era we knew wouldn't last forever, and yet were not really prepared to see end. The ruthlessness and sadness are mixed together, as we try to tell ourselves that economic value trumps sentimental value. But do we really believe that?

mrsdarwin said...

C.S. Lewis talks in The Four Loves about affection being the sort of love that's homely, like the family furniture that looks well in its place but seems shabby when put outside to be cleaned or sold. I'm looking around at my furniture and things, some of which will have to be given away or sold if we move, and wondering if anyone will see them as anything more than junk. And yet they've served us well and deserve to be loved, if only for the memories they hold.

Enbrethiliel said...


I still regret selling my old boy band CDs. Yes, that ridiculous part of my life might be over (and I think I listen to better music these days), but there was something wrong about giving them away like that--a betrayal of what they represented.

Rodak said...

Life is loss; but sometimes less really is more. Sadly, it's only sometimes, though.

Very nice piece.

Francesca said...

I liked the poem, it reminded me of ee cummings