In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

Ted Kooser


In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

Ted Kooser


Poem introduction

I am a devotee of thrift shops and goodwill stores and garage sales and yard sales and so on, and have spent hours and hours in these places - I just love them, I can't exactly say why. But the following poem describes the basement of a goodwill store in the way I've seen them many times.

In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

In musty light, in the thin brown air
of damp carpet, doll heads and rust,
beneath long rows of sharp footfalls
like nails in a lid, an old man stands
trying on glasses, lifting each pair
from the box like a glittering fish
and holding it up to the light
of a dirty bulb. Near him, a heap
of enameled pans as white as skulls
looms in the catacomb shadows,
and old toilets with dry red throats
cough up bouquets of curtain rods.

You've seen him somewhere before.
He's wearing the green leisure suit
you threw out with the garbage,
and the Christmas tie you hated,
and the ventilated wingtip shoes
you found in your father's closet
and wore as a joke. And the glasses
which finally fit him, through which
he looks to see you looking back -
two mirrors which flash and glance -
are those through which one day
you too will look down over the years,
when you have grown old and thin
and no longer particular,
and the things you once thought
you were rid of forever
have taken you back in their arms.


'In the Basement of the Goodwill Store' from One World at a Time (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985), © Ted Kooser 1985, used by permission of the author and the publisher. All rights are controlled by the University of Pitsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.pitt.edu/press/.

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