Antique Shops and other works by Lenny Emmanuel
Lenny Emmanuel's first collection of poems, The Icecream Lady, was published in 1997 by Ramparts, Inc. His poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in Parnassus, Free Lunch, Yawp, Outposts Poetry Quarterly, Agenda, and Antioch Review. He has served as an editor with The New Laurel Review in New Orleans, and lives not far away in Pass Christian, Mississippi. He maintains a web site at http://lennyemmanuel.com/.
Often times, utterly surprised,
I come across something that
I can fix, mend, clean, restore,
a piece of wood no one wants
or an abused, discarded book,
not fine enough for the shelf.
Somehow I am pleasantly lost
in them, their cluttered places,
at times overwhelmed, feeling
like an old ox stumbling about,
sometimes as small as an elf,
especially before a photograph
of some handsome newlyweds
or an apparently happy family,
celebrating their kid's birthday.
There are times, though, that
I linger too long before blank
faces, seeing those dark italics
of their minds, the nothingness
of their long, minute journeys.
I turn from such empty spaces
and search for whatever lasts,
a thimble, a toy, a music box,
something I should look after,
a ragged book, a poem, a ring.
There's always a pen or chain,
a broken clock, even an eraser,
something that nobody wants.
And my mind drifts further still,
from war and amazing disgrace.
And the ring is not an antique,
but mine in love and happiness,
and not grim or dark like today.
They live in cages on the roof of Peabody's Hotel,
in winter and summer, rain and snow, scorching heat.
Only the few, the feeders and caretakers, ever hear
their lonely 'calls' or see their bleak, solitary walls -
the wire, the tin, the wooden rafters of their refuge.
There is a certain majestic grace about them, though,
when their special elevator with its bright red carpet
comes to take them down to the fountain and fans
who applaud their celebrated entrance with the band.
They cannot know, of course, about former times,
when huntsmen and heavy drinkers first brought
their ancestors inside and how the tradition was born.
They splash, flutter, paddling around the fountain,
as if their captivating merriment were blissful elation
in duck heaven, then return to their secluded cages.
I do wonder here at the airport in Memphis, as dusk
comes on, how they feel about cages and the dark,
if their fountain visits atone for their cancelled flights?
*Returning from an unsuccessful hunting trip in the 1930s,
the General Manager Frank Schutt and friends, while fairly
intoxicated, found it amusing to leave their live decoy ducks
in the hotel fountain. "The Duck March" began in the 1940s
with the ducks being escorted from their penthouse home
on the Plantation Roof to an elevator down to the fountain
in the lobby of the hotel. The ritual, accompanied by the
King Cotton March by John Sousa, occurs daily, 11:00 a.m.
The Peabody Hotel was built by Robert C. Brinkley in 1869.