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Elegy for Myself in an Antique Store by Marty Cain | Word Riot

February 16, 2014      

Elegy for Myself in an Antique Store by Marty Cain

Listen to a reading of “Elegy for Myself in an Antique Store” by Marty Cain.

I descend into the endless
basement, ash-stained sofas stacked
to the mildewed ceiling,
& the old woman hovers by me
as I go down. How about
an armchair?
she says, we got
loads of armchairs
, and I say
no thanks, just a desk—
how about this mirror? she says,
and I stare at my scratched reflection
with pink flower stickers stuck
in corners, & say, I just want a desk,
somewhere to write. She points
me to one, & I slide open each
drawer, the inside boards warped
& turning blue. I look at the quiet
rot with buzz of a single box fan
in dust thick behind me, meet her eyes—
is that decay normal, I say, is that
something I can work with,
& she says, It’s a basement, honey.
Stick a thing below the earth
and that’s what happens,

& is that what truly happens,
I wonder—I think of creatures
that live below earth, can’t remember
if worms eat dirt or just live
inside it, is there a difference now,
I am below the metaphoric earth
& have been for years since the day
I became gravely aware of time,
learned that a body spends a life
unbecoming a body, sinking deeper
into soil—Gotta fix the damn
lights in here
, the woman mutters,
& what is life if not a continuous
shopping trip for the new apartments
we move into, a spiral down, down,
eat, shit, split myself & multiply, I wake
at night, feel sweat collect on hairs
on my lower leg the way dew sticks
on a precarious blade of grass,
though it’s dark still, not morning,
& I note the body’s indentation
in my bed, how my days move in circles,
I rise, dispense with yesterday’s coffee
filter sagging, open the trash can’s
lid with its piles of shrimp tails rotting
at the bottom, stinking this place up
when exposed, I have been down here
my whole life with a withered woman by me,
honey I can give you a deal, she says,
was there a time before, cover up
the decay with baking soda
, she says,
real thin layer, words rasping, last
survivor in dust-clung air, was there a time
when I stood in meadows, small child,
watched tall grass undulate, cattails swaying,
& I raced across, tumbled, lay in shade,
that place of narrative suspension,
where we wish to return as we grow
older, as we sink into dark & disappear.

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 6.31.50 PMAbout the author:

Marty Cain received his BA from Hamilton College in 2013, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in The Journal, Rattle, The Minnesota Review, PANK, and elsewhere.

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