Karie Friedman


N. Henry, "Junk"
N. Henry, “Junk”

Barn Sales

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.

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