It’s not the Flow Blue china,
snatched up by dealers at 6:00 am,
the handmade rake shaped like a menorah,
or fabled roadster in its mantle of hay
that draw us out on weekends
to follow cardboard signs,
balloons jerking on strings,
to park where cars gather like ants
around a honey-barbecued wing.
And not entirely the allure
of vases, tools, wheel rims bringing us
to the sawhorse tables. We browse
from sale to sale, a paseo on wheels,
greeting neighbors and strangers
with whom we share this game
and a use-it-up frugality,
banter as if our sagging houses
with their ghosts, their pantries
full of Mason jars, their woodstoves
make us all of a kind. Not so, of course,
but a comfortable conceit. If some
are drunks or cranks, with a stash
of guns down cellar, we don’t want to know.
We pay cash, keep it light, don’t ask
or tell our secret spots for cutting
holiday spruce tips. fiddleheads, shrooms.
In barn sale country, we mingle just
enough to get along. A certain lack
of focus helps. Benign myopia. Flow Blue
rather than Blue Willow, you might say.
They light up as I approach,
–blue, amber, red–salute
me on my night journey
up this dirt road through woods
where animal eyes turn
towards my headlights, shadowy
forms scuttle away.
Flat as melted lollipops,
plastic designed to capture
what Francis Bacon called
God’s first creation,
they tremble on stalks
beside a weedy drive or triple-stud
a mailbox post, headless now,
before an empty house.
I know their intended
use, to guide a blundering
snowplow, wink at guests
heading out after a few,
but also sense another,
a message they carry, like cairns
beside a trail or pyramids
the Pharaohs built that still surprise
travelers they couldn’t stay to meet.
Picture our landscape
in a future from which people
have deleted themselves. Picture
reflectors waiting in darkness
for a gleam that never comes,
like faces of the lonely, ready
to glow, but only when
someone else provides the light.
Karie Friedman turned to writing poetry after many years as Assistant Editor of Reviews of Modern Physics. Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Naugatuck River Review, Off the Coast, and elsewhere. A native of Los Angeles, she lives in Montville, Maine.