Yard Sale

by Karen Mandell

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 Risesthe 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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