Things For Sale

written by: Karen Janowsky

The warped plywood sign fades, draws attention

away from itself in faded red, the dot and the line

of the ‘i’ attached by a dribble of paint. The white

clapboard shack is damp from a drenching

rain followed by humidity so thick the mosquitoes

hide, and paint peels and slides from the siding

like a redneck Salvador Dali, complete

with melting cuckoo clocks, shotguns repurposed

into lamps with dry rotted, pleated shades, and a brittle,

plastic bonsai whose leaves have long since cracked.

The gravelly, pockmarked path to the sagging stairs

of a dilapidated porch with a few holes down the center

are little deterrent when sunlight reflects so brightly

from the broken and smeared front windows in

their splintery frames. I imagine empty

inkwells, dull, rusty tools, moldy and faded Life

magazines. It’s the middle of the day in the middle

of nowhere, and my legs itch from the tall, sticky

grass off the path we’ve been walking. A baby

doll with one eye colored over in magic

marker, a stack of avocado green dishes, dented

coffee pots, and a dozen empty, dust-coated

mason jars on a rickety shelf. Those might be

mouse droppings on the wedding dress I see

hanging from a coat hook. A carcass,

gray and matted, the jawbone jutting and exposed,

rests on the windowsill. How do we decide

What’s worth keeping? Does the rediscovery of another

life’s detritus have value? A woman once told me

in her mid-fifties, she found God when she found

her mother’s ring, which she thought she’d lost,

tangled in the hole of an old winter coat, caught

like an expensive spider dangling from a thread

between the wool and the lining. It was an invitation,

she’d said, a celestial hand extended in exchange

for belief and devotion. The step is rotten—

I twist my ankle as I ascend and the porch buckles

beneath my weight. It’s dark in there. My hands

are filthy black from where I wiped the glass

for a better look at what shoppers neglected

to acquire, the warped and broken remains

of things picked through. I wrap my fingers

around a support and lower myself to the ground;

you take my hand to steady me. I wipe the dirty 

hand on my dress and show you the other. Here:

here is my heart, yours for a steal and a song.

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