Photo by Christopher Raley

Surplus

If Lost Fields has a northwest corner
the surplus store sits in the angle.
My sons and I entered unnoticed
by tattooed and sunburnt men at counter
and wandered dazed and dwarfed
through ceiling-high aisles of military cast-offs.

As if pulled by the same magnetism
of traumatic dead, we went out back
where gravel, golden weeds,
and long rows of metal magnified
late summer’s smoke screened heat.
Rusted blocks rested here, crates
full of starters, grates hung up on a rack, stacks
of tires marked by an upright missile.

When my older son
gripped the stick of an arthritic transmission,
my mind drew a line from here
southeast through Bangor to Brownsville
and conjured up years in and out
of forgotten square miles of California,
and I saw again piles of junk
discarded and half-buried in weeds,
yet reigning still over hearts and imaginations.

And I thought:
I’ve entered a kind of consignment shop
for good intentions. The place
where seeds of beautiful things
are bought and then returned
without having realized their potential.
Or, if you prefer, a graveyard
where grieving souls stray
who have not yet learned to say:
Let them be. Let them be.

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