“The flea,” that’s what the year-rounders call it,
rummaging through tools or bric-a-brac then
gossiping all day at their tables in the blistering sun,
their faded beach umbrellas barely shading the tarmac.
This is what my mother did in New Hampshire
Sunday after widowed Sunday, into her eighties.
Up at dawn, her wagon packed the night before—
by noon, willing to mark down anything not to have
to re-wrap and pack the whole kit and caboodle
for the sticky hundred mile drive home….
Today, I pick up a teapot, white with a smattering
of pink and black and aqua stars, its flawed glaze
(a reject from the start), its jaunty asterisks,
its moderne form, manufactured in Syracuse
in the ’Fifties, pleases me, seven starry cups
and five chipped star-studded dinner plates—
ordinary optimistic dishes, probably used by one
Cape Cod family for decades, only dings
and cracks now to tell their homely provenance,
their good usage and keep the price down.
Not star-struck, my mother would have felt
the edges’ roughness with her thumb and found
them wanting. It wouldn’t have been the chips—
she treasured her miniatures, her broken “minnies”—
these just weren’t her thing. But like a ninny—
I can make something of this, can’t I?—I buy the lot
in her magpie memory, wrapped in old Globes,
for what a cappuccino would cost, or a Parisian mystery.
Copyright © 2022 by Gail Mazur. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.