Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

The Sadness of Antique Shops

Brian Bartlett

Shells kidnapped from sand and tidal rocks
rest below a watercolour all cliché,
beach and ocean prettified and benign.
Green, blue and orange buoys
once marked sites of submerged nets
but bob and ride waves no longer, doomed
to be garden or mantelpiece ornaments.

Touch the fiftieth-anniversary plate
personalized in gold with a couple’s names;
            are they downsizing, divorced – or dead?
Will the lengths of rope hanging on spikes
keep boats from floating away, or make
a few nooses for suicides?
                                       A miner’s black lunch-pail,
fading to grey, features a name scratched
into its tin, now illegible. Lift the lid
for clues to the stranger’s days – find emptiness.

A nimble-legged buck is diminished to less
than the “d” in “deer,” to nothing
but his twelve-pointed antlers. What value
in a ceramic parrot multicoloured
but silent, a big price-tag on its forehead? –
or, the size of a softball, a bald eagle
made out of bald-eagle feathers?

“Wind-up Crawling Baby”
dressed in puffy, black-dotted white,
lips like blood streaks, .....

* poem, in its entirety, is available in the printed version of the current issue.


Brian Bartlett has published 14 collections and chapbooks of poetry, two books of nature writing, and a compilation of his prose on poetry. He has also edited many books, including selected volumes of Don Domanski, Dorothy Roberts, and James Reaney, as well as Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan. His third book of nature writing, Daystart Songflight: A Morning Journal, will be published by Pottersfield Press in fall 2021.