The units have roll-up doors like those on garages, which many of us operate by just pushing a button to put our cars to sleep for the night. But now a whole row of the doors are open on units that people have stopped paying rent on, and their possessions – or former possessions – spill out. There are Eisenhower-era golf clubs whose chrome shafts are pitted with rust; dented tackle boxes full of unattractive lures; books on how-to; a combination console stereo and wet bar; end tables scalloped by rows of cigarette burns; a life preserver that would sink you efficiently as cement. In fact, everything is the color of cement as if covered with a fine ash. These are the furnishings survivors of Vesuvius would have lost if the ancient world had pole lamps with cracked fixtures and gray, half-stuffed beanbag chairs. Imagine the people who paid to store these things in hopes of one day picking up where their lives left off. There are sadnesses greater than this, but not many. There is nothing here to buy, nothing funky or kitschy or retro. If you brought any of this home you would drive your car into its bedroom, close the door and go to sleep forever. Somewhere, though, someone is heartbroken over the tragedy of this loss. In dreams that person drops the record player’s needle and pours cheap scotch into a glass whose cut-glass diamonds sparkle with the impossible light of contentment. Unaccountably, all the ashtrays are clean.
Grand Haven, Michigan
There’s faith and then there’s faith – know what I mean? If not, witness this Christian rock quartet practicing for Worship on the Waterfront on a temporary stage near the harbor, and then this guy down the café counter from me whose next stop is the graveyard to play harp for his wife dead these last twenty years. This is the soul’s rightful place, isn’t it, in the space between Saturday night and Monday’s first cup of office coffee? Perhaps this makes you think of King Alfred and that bird which flew into a room’s brief light from out of darkness and out into darkness again, or maybe the difference between the taste of coffee at home and in a cubicle. I think I may have gone off message here, but it’s the weekend, so what the hell? And you know what kind of harp I mean, the kind that when you blow it, crows fly up from between granite markers and plastic flowers go on blooming in cement urns. The kind you can try playing hymns on if you want, though they’ll come out sounding like blues.
Marc J. Sheehan is the author of two poetry collections — Greatest Hits from New Issues Poetry Press, and Vengeful Hymns from Ashland Poetry Press, which was runner-up for a Society of Midland Authors book of the year award. His other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. He is Communications Officer at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.