The Seller of Memories

When I opened this poem on my computer I honestly expected it to be in terrible shape—an unreadable mess. In fact, it’s actually not all that bad for what it is. So here, have a narrative poem inspired probably a bit too much by Christina Rossetti. (No, I have no idea what specifically inspired it.)

The Seller of Memories

Originally written February 14, 2014

The seller of memories
Sweeps out the chimneys
Dusts porcelain bunnies
And airs out the halls

She brushes out cobwebs
And straightens the bedspreads
And cleans out the toolshed
And repaints the walls

And carefully gathers
The tears and the tatters
The dirt and the splatters,
The ashes that fall

Collected, she sorts them:
A rusty old emblem
A broken old button
A thimble so small

Old roots from the cellar
A tiny old feather
A dried bit of heather
An eye from a doll

And wraps them up there
Each gathered with care:
She calls them her wares,
Lost, broken things, all

She wraps them up nicely
Describes them concisely
And ties them up tightly
In an old, tattered shawl.

Then, wrapped on old laces
Long lacking in graces,
Toward far marketplaces
She hobbles and crawls

Up hills and back down,
Through backwater towns,
Ignoring the frowns
The jeers and the calls

Past rich, lovely ladies
Past old men and babies
Past nobles so stately
Past bright merchant stalls

Past crimson-leafed maples
Past villains in sable
‘Til she finds her table
Tucked back, far from all

Unwrapping her bundle
With care, lest they crumble,
Without sigh or mumble
She lays out her haul,

Then waits for the meek,
The tired, the weak:
“I’ll find what you seek,
Be it big or small”

A young Spanish maiden,
Hair smelling of saffron:
She picks up the emblem
And says: “I recall:

My love’s father’s anger;
My heritage, farmer
My lover in armor;
He died in the war.”

A man finds the button:
“It came from a mitten:
Of a girl with a kitten–”
And his eyes travel far.

Next up is the thimble:
An old childhood symbol
Of a tailor so nimble
Who laughed long and loud.

A man old and mute
With eyes resolute
Picks up the old roots.
He sniffles and bawls.

“This feather’s from that
Old parakeet fat:
Twas et by the cat.”
The matron withdraws.

“Heather pins I was given
When I was eleven
By a girl of age seven.
I’ve married her now.”

An old king, quite regal
With an eye like an eagle
(But a voice like a seagull)
Sees the doll’s eye, so small:

“It belonged to my daughter,
She brought joy to her father
‘Til she died as a toddler.”
The tears freely fall.

The seller of memories
Has no need of money;
Has riches aplenty
In what people recall.

So if you should see her,
There’s no need to fear her
Remember, draw nearer:
Let memories call.

Photo by Dobrinoiu Denis on Unsplash