Each flea-market stall smells like cedar,
and mothballs, the only exception
the ammonia-sharp tables of Depression
glass gleaming in the early morning sun.
My friends and I come once a month
to saunter through relics of the past, spot
pieces of our childhoods for sale, search for
things we did not know we wanted. Everyone
here hunts for that hidden desire. A burly
woman in a too-tight cardigan beams at antique
gumball machines. A small blond boy and his
sunburned father study bobble-head dolls and
baseball cards. We are not immune. Sally buys
small wooden tables and old china, Diane
salt and pepper shakers, tiny juice glasses.
My treasures are less predictable - croquet
balls with chipped paint one weekend, a bowl
that reminds me of my grandmother the next.
Today I spend hours on my hands and knees
sifting through boxes of old hardware - doorknobs
of textured metal and burled wood, keys to
unknown closets rusting on wrought iron rings,
things that open, close, have weight to them.
Most of the time, it is all just useless junk
oil lamps with fractured bowls, rotary phones
with lists of emergency numbers for a town
I’ll never live in. A vendor selling lace and linens
nurses her tiny baby in the shade of a quilt.
This is what I really want, but I can’t have it.
The doctors say that I am useless too.
Donna Vorreyer lives in the Chicago area where she teaches middle school and tries to convince teenagers that words matter. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Cider Press Review, Apt, New York Quarterly, Boxcar Poetry Review, Autumn Sky Poetry, and After Hours. “Empty-Handed” is part of her first chapbook Womb/Seed/Fruit, which will be published by Finishing Line Press in June 2010. Visit her on the web at http://djvorreyer.wordpress.com