In the Gullah Flea Market

Rainy day. I’m going out on route 278,
turning left at Squire Pope Road, where
lookouts in trees once scanned Port Royal
Sound for Union ships. I’m parking, walking
past wet bicycles tagged at $75, their miles
metallic with odors of fatback and collards
beginning to ferment. Inside, tripping over
vacuum cleaners without wheels, I’ve bonked an
elbow on small-screen TVs peering blindly
in the echo of pratfalls, sitcom gags slackened
out of their time, fathers in business suits
hallooing into a dark hall, snow drifting

across the hours, into the aisle where I’ve
picked up lint from chenille bedspreads
stuffed into a sleep of twenty years. The
Nigerian vendor behind trays of bracelets
and carved bone earrings stands to rearrange
Ghanian coin masks that hang with tarnished
currency, smudged profiles of heroes, the sharp-
nosed Queen; the vacancy of wealth obvious
in papier-maché eye sockets, a coarse cinder-block
wall, the moldering of empire, while I back into
prongs of a barbecue fork, jostle piles of crescent
wrenches, lock-jaw pliers biting uselessly into air.

A TV Guide slips off its 1980 stack, opening
to programs I must have seen, my mother in ICU,
the flexible tube of the respirator in her mouth,
her eyes searching, looking toward the grimy
blinds of a window and the wall that opens beyond.
I’m here among rotted spines of arithmetic
books signed on the title page by sixth-graders
with a flourish toward fame. An old Remington
half-revealed in its stained case like the one
I hocked to pay the rent, going for weeks in long
hand on East Sixth Street, salsa pulsing the walls
as I lift the maple top of the TV/stereo combo and
spin the turntable with a 45-rpm adapter slipped
down the spindle like a tourniquet to slow

the rhythm of need, while the young couple
behind me grows bored with watching such dim
progress among pink Depression glass and green
chipped pitchers that someone poured lemonade
from in 1948 after a scorching day delivering
laundry. But there's no cord to plug into this
bulbous chrome percolator. No way to warm
the last drop. Or sweep away the scurf of dried-out
foam rubber cushions that kept me upright
when I drew diagrams for Mr. Jablonsky’s science
class, made black-ink drawings of Erlenmeyer
flasks. And I’m standing here among dusty bone
china, running my finger along an edgy whiteness,
the lost heat of a future.

John Allman | Mudlark No. 31
Contents | Outlet Mall