Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Collections

Late again, I am. I spent the day yesterday cleaning house with my son. It's an end of the school year tradition. He goes through his books, "toys" (he's 13 now, so apparently I can't call them toys any longer) and other materials he's collected over the course of the year and offers them up for donation. A large box of books is going to teacher friends, the rest have gone to Freecycle.

I've done a lot of cleaning out over the last year, first as we downsized my mother to a 190 square foot room in a nursing home, and just recently as we've downsized my in-laws from a 3000+ square foot home to a retirement cottage of just over 1400 square feet. All this downsizing has made me realize how much "stuff" I have that I don't need. As hard as it is to let go of things, this "stuff" does not make my life. There is much I can and will gladly give away, but the collections? Now this is where I have difficulty.
  • I have a hefty stamp collection, but I have taken it to my office and now use it in my teaching. 
  • I have been collecting teapots (individual sizes) since my college days. I use one or two, but the rest sit on a shelf where I love to look at them. 
  • I have a large collection of of pottery I use in the kitchen. Most of these dishes only see the light of day a few times a year, but again, I have glass-front cabinets and love to see them.
  • My largest collection of items is books, and books I just can't bear to part with.
Do you have a collection? If it could talk, what would it say? What would you say about it? Let's write about collections this week. I hope you will join us. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Oh crud. Okay, one more time!


    At night the collections quarrel
    across their shelves.

    “She likes us best,”
    the china plates clink,
    showing off hand-painted curves,
    swirls and whirls of bright paint
    from Italy, or English violets.
    They are not asked to cook,
    to bear cherries and grapes.
    Their faces are round as suns.
    They color the cabinet.

    The dolls are antiques, lifting
    their heads with Victorian pride.
    “We are better than you,”
    they say, astonished
    by the audacity of the china.
    Their lace cuffs and collars
    are gardens with rows
    of fragile flowers. Children
    are not allowed to touch them.
    Only to look and think with awe
    of great-grandmothers.

    “You are made,” the little boxes
    tell the dolls, “but not as well
    as we are.” The boxes
    hold jewels, they hold secrets,
    they hold silver and gold.
    They are brass, wood, and stone.
    They are corners and grooves,
    small hinged lids, even hidden
    compartments fit for love letters.
    They are a convoluted crew.

    Only the shells
    do not join in. They murmur
    prayers to their goddess the sea,
    remembering snails like small sails.
    The seashells are as beautiful
    as geishas. They are not collected.
    They are lost far from home,
    small temples of sorrow.
    They do not know how they gleam.
    The only thing that gleams
    for them is the memory of water.

    At night the collections quarrel.
    Except for the shells.

    —Kate Coombs, 2014
    all rights reserved

  2. Wonderful poem, Kate! Thanks for sharing that. I collect books as well but am starting to let go of some. It's about time. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  3. The Earrings Argue

    Though they live on the same shelf,
    earrings do not get along.
    You can hear them at night,
    their voices tight with anger.
    There are always holes
    in their arguments,
    They drop names,
    calculate the weight
    of ears, spit out
    the numbers of carets,
    measure heft
    and pearls.

    They may be cousins,
    tribal, but they do not fight
    necklaces or bracelets,
    and always feel
    anklets are well below them.

    When the sun comes up
    they go silent,
    sulking downward,
    dreaming of zircons
    delivering lead.

    ©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    A book with a faded gray cover and torn pages that are being
    held on to the spine thanks to weak glue and inspiration
    flop next to a pristine silver 1st edition classic.
    They stare at each other.
    “They love us more than you,” said classic to torn pages.
    “No they don’t,” said torn pages,
    “When was the last time they read you?”
    “We’re too valuable to be read,”
    “That’s warped logic, what’s the point in owning a book if you don’t read it?”
    “Money, prestige.”
    “Good lord you’re conceited, money’s not the be to end all.”
    Both are picked up and placed in a bin titled For the Library.
    Classic starts pleading “No, no don’t do this to me.”
    Torn pages is thrilled, “Cool, more people are going to read my story.”
    “I don’t want to be read, I want to be admired.”
    “Trust me, you’ll be fine. Matter of fact, I already know what your stories about.”
    “What’s that?”

    Dust coated, uncracked
    On library shelf they plead
    Please, please open us.

    (c) Charles Waters 2014 all rights reserved.