Antiques Fair

By Grace Schulman

Tents bloom like the circus over things
that serve new purposes: the family hymnal
drowses in a cradle, mugs offer razors,
gifts of an ancestor who isn’t yours.

A woman wearing cloudy froth sorts pewter
and holds a blue bottle to the sunlight,
then strokes a gilded mirror for the image
of an 1890s great-grandmother,

young in a tulle gown, plush stole, and tiara.
Sunday, July. In town, the church is empty.
Stark pulpit. Preacher gone. The organist
in a fair booth squinting at tattered sheet music,

Rejoice, You Pure, the congregation out
picking at fries, bowed over what might read:
Blessed art thou, bald eagle in blond wood,
beak agape, swoop down and clutch us now.

A mother reaches around the baby
strapped on her chest to scoop up beads
marked VINTAGE, V for the vast enchanted
who sleepwalk through the fair, lifting tongs

forged by a local smith, as though to salvage
from a great fire icons of a past
flimsy as a chain of paper dolls,
bare as a brass fist with a missing flagpole.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/08/antiques-fair/308069/