AT THE PAWN SHOP
—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
I finger a tattered costume and am back in 1972
wearing my short red dress
the one with superhero letters on the chest
a sparkly gold cape and eye mask
gold knee-high boots and
I can’t get on the plane without this get-up.
I pick up a Bay City Rollers CD and am back in 1978
being kissed for the first time
after “Lady’s Choice” at Roller King
wearing my baby-blue satin shirt
and tight white jeans
hair perfectly feathered,
“The Way I Feel Tonight” carrying us away.
I unearth a battered copy of Orwell’s 1984
and am back in that year
in my first college classroom
paying less attention to the lecture than to
the boy who changed seats to sit next to me.
He vibrates with an intensity that can only belong
to my future-ex-husband.
I leave without buying anything.
I already have more than I need.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
She makes her way by stages
up the street, past Ocean Ridge eatery
(so far from the sea and never a fresh catch)
to that mystery place, the pawn shop.
Here she pauses, furtively. It seems morbid
to take interest in other folks' bad fortune.
Today, a Dutch-girl doll with porcelain face
and golden braids, some child's treasure,
given up because somebody had to.
That's how her mother explained it. Worlds
beyond her family understanding.
Who would believe, the wedding rings, silent
violins; that jumping-saddle, so well oiled,
it gives off a blood-bay light—she
imagines wind in the face, the lift to clear
a hedge. What draws her to stop here
each time she passes? As if to make
a story of some homeless object,
to redeem her passing time.
In the not quite dark of summer dawn, my dog
sniffs the T-shirt I just pulled on. It's blaze-
orange. He can smell orange with a small black
SAR logo. Fresh from the drawer but it must
somehow hold scents of past pleasures: trails
across damp grass, errant-wind scoured scree,
sand laced with puncture-vine, hotplate asphalt;
and his quarry at trail's end. I feel him smiling
in dim light. Don't ask me how he knows this
shirt from all its cotton relatives washed, wind-
dried on the line, folded up in dresser-dark. He
knows. It rises in his chest, warm air rumble-
humming up through vocal cords wave on wave,
the song of dog anticipation, wordless joy.
It must have been the folding screen. Art deco,
green, leaned in the corner of the living-room,
in the home of a little boy, yesterday last-seen.
Had he disappeared into the piles of unfolded
shirts and shoes, piece of an appliance, dirty cup
and jeans, TV remote, toy turtle, last week's
paper? The mother saw nothing. You know
how a child can be transformed in the folding
and, in-between, unfolding of a screen.
DREAM OF A RUINED CITY
We breathed cement dust like powdered Death,
no matter how we smeared our clinic masks
with mentholated vapor, still the stench seeped
through. Dirty silence where so many people
had been alive. A dog heaved in rabbit-dreams
that carried him chasing off beyond what was
left of skyline, jagged like broke ceramic dishes.
Doorways hung where we expected walls;
jammed shut. I remembered this place
from an old print of Ctesiphon beached like
a schooner in the desert; recognized this archway
under shattered crystal sky: entrance
to a labyrinth without map or exit, the final
archetype before we wake from dreams
of dust to the next blue morning.