Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday

It's a very Nebraska kind of day.

By that I mean that on Tuesday, it was sixty degrees and today it's four.


Welcome to my state.

When I'm feeling Nebraskaesque, I think of Ted Kooser. The basements of Goodwill stores feel rather Nebraskan to me, too, though I imagine they are of the same stripe wherever they exist.

In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

by Ted Kooser

In musty light, in the thin brown air
of damp carpet, doll heads and rust,
beneath long rows of sharp footfalls
like nails in a lid, an old man stands
trying on glasses, lifting each pair
from the box like a glittering fish
and holding it up to the light
of a dirty bulb. Near him, a heap ...

(... read the rest here at the Poetry Foundation.)

What interests me about this poem is that I can identify with it in so many ways. The whole Goodwill thing fascinates me. I am the one who has cast off, the one who has purchased, the one who has worn something as a joke, the one who has shopped because of true need.

(The only trouble with donating to and shopping at one and the same Goodwill store is that there's the danger your child will paw through the stuffed animal bin and say, "Mommy! This is just like ours ... Mommmmeeee! This is ours!")

At Goodwill, I've seen everyone. There are the moms like me, families who live on one income and so reuse, recycle, and shop for jeans at second-hand stores, because this is reality, and in prioritizing, we'd rather buy fresh fruit and books than a new pair of pants that will be outgrown in a month. There was, one day, a woman whom I know to be rather well off, shopping in Goodwill, dressed in a very old coat and a hat pulled down far enough to nearly cover her eyes. I wanted to tell her it was okay to be there, that it's good stewardship, that she shouldn't worry so much. And there are those who are the old man in this poem, "old and thin and no longer particular," those whose need is far greater than mine, those who find glittering fish, and who, as we see in this poem, are reflections of ourselves.

And, in a final irony:

A few years ago, I searched my house from top to bottom for my Ted Kooser books. He had visited for a reading when I was in college, and I knew I had a couple of his poetry collections around here somewhere, didn't I? Where were those books? It seems, alas, that in a frenzied fit of cleaning and decluttering, I must have given them away. To Goodwill.


The entire Poetry Friday round-up is here, at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.


Warren said...

Wow great poem.

Becky said...

If there's anything more Goodwillean than the Goodwill Store, it's the basement of the Goodwill Store!

And what's even more troublesome than the danger of the rest of the family discovering your discards is unknowingly buying your own things back. At least I'm consistent, she said with a sigh.

Thanks for the poem, Karen! I'll read it to the kids, because the Goodwill is one of their favorite places, full of treasures. At least they're not growing up associating any sort of stigma with shopping there.

Karen E. said...

Warren, so glad you liked it.

"And what's even more troublesome than the danger of the rest of the family discovering your discards is unknowingly buying your own things back."
Ha! Anne-with-an-e reminded me of the time I'd discarded a turtleneck, and when Betsy spotted it at Goodwill, asked if we could buy it. :)

Mine love to find treasures there, too, Becky. No stigma here, just frugal lasses.

Melanie B said...

Oh a lovely poem.

We don't have a goodwill store near here; but I used to frequent them when younger and we often stuffed bags full of donations as well. Ours never had a basement, thought. Not very many basements at all in the part of Texas I'm from.

My dad actually used to work for the state's rehabilitation commission and at one time did inspections of Goodwill facilities among other things. I have a photo of me as a baby next to a bright yellow smiley face pillow he was given once that was made by a Goodwill worker. My parents still have that pillow floating around their house. A treasure for my girls to enjoy when we visit.

Thanks for the memories.

Mary Lee said...

Love Kooser, love the poem, but love your stories even more!

Kelly Fineman said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but I'm sure someone somewhere scooped those books up and loved them as well.

I've been thinking of his poem "The Hog-Nosed Snake" this week, and wishing to write something like it. Something wry and funny.

Kelly Fineman said...

Drat - that link turned out not to work as it ought to have. Here's the poem:

The hog-nosed snake, when playing dead,
Lets its tongue loll out of its ugly head.

It lies on its back as stiff as a stick;
If you flip it over it'll flip back quick.

If I seem dead when you awake,
Just flip me once, like the hog-nosed snake.

Yat-Yee said...

I've shopped at Goodwill many times and eventhough ours doesn't have a basement, I've been to places described here. I have to admit, they depress me. Used bookstores, on the other hand, delight me. Go figure.

Beck said...

I always love the poems that you choose!
Being able to shop WELL at second hand stores is a gift, I think - my husband always strides manfully out, with NWT items and I always find the polyester stuff with the stained armpits. And yet we're at the same store. Sheesh.