Mementos, knickknacks, treasured junk, set pieces. Some call them soulless, yet I heard Robert Lowell admonish his child, a toddler stomping a book, “Oh no, dear, you mustn’t— books are immortal souls.” Things we might say we “love,” flea market tables are piled with them—hand-painted trays, chipped deco pottery; LIFE magazines saved in drawers for their covers—they’re little museums themselves: American photography of our troops at Normandy, dead soldiers, flotsam, washed ashore; the Dionne Quints 5 little girls in white dresses, caged in Quintland, their Ontario yard, for tourists and their cameras; LIFE, declaring without shame: THERE IS A CASE FOR INTERPLANETARY SAUCERS (Marilyn’s on that cover). Prowling the daytime drive-in’s aisles at the flea, in the summer sun, I go into a classic hunter’s crouch, walk on the balls of my feet, my arms outstretched, my fingertips metal detectors for Sunday’s hidden coin. Dusty broken useless. My closets full of things, my shelves overflow with LPs, snapshots, Bakelite boxes that held monogrammed playing cards—someone else’s monogram— or unfiltered cigarettes; my grandmother’s stereopticons, scenes of the vast Grand Canyon with tiny human figures for perspective; my grandfather’s tefillin in a blue velvet drawstring bag. Old piles of books, papers, drafts, catalogues, magazines—what’s a bedside floor for?— notebooks, science articles torn jagged from the Times, and also book reviews, passionate or sardonic dicta about what? by whom? Handle bags from long-closed bookstores, mugs with jokes or slogans holding inkless pens, wood rulers, random screws and nails. Grandfather’s pencil stub marked Aid to the Jewish Blind, his arthritic hand held it to dial the phone, its eraser petrified. Mother preached collecting was the only cure for depression—she couldn’t think it was a symptom, didn’t believe anyway in depression. Earmuffs, bell-bottoms, campaign buttons. Matchbooks from vanished restaurants, cool restaurants with ashtrays, with smokers. An embossed plumber’s card from Pasadena touts Miranda the Plumber— You Don’t Have to Live with a Drip! A small bamboo rat carved so delicately it’s hard to imagine the tool, the carver’s hand; 2 blackened Senufo masks, displaced, implacable on the wall. Things, things—Uncle Harold’s tragedy of the Chinese revolution, No Peace for Asia; the last biography of Harry S. Truman, and Harry Blackmun’s; the scathing pleasure of Philip Roth, of stirring unsentimental Willa Cather’s America; a battered Amphigorey; my childhood copy of Struwwelpeter, Johnny Head-in-Air who finally walked right off a pier and drowned., the point being it served him right, translated from the German. And all this all this poetry, my friends’, the challenging dead, unalphabetized life’s blood, positioned to be rediscovered. An inventory of them alone would take a thousand pages. But who on this green earth would type it? And why? And when? (“So many things in your poems,” one friend said to me, disdainfully, I thought….) Your steel tool-case with molded grooves to fit each mystifying tool. Drill bits, Philips heads, brushes, tubes of color, drying… Art—the walls, the closets, the flat files— humming its demanding song. Or not just demanding, generous. Secretly, in the dark companioning me. Things aren’t company, I know that, or ideas, or moral currencies, although they feel like company when I hold them, I look at them, I know they’re here except in dreams, except in dreams. Loving them, touching them, keeping them, I’d like to think they love me back. Here are your shirts, and your hand-sharpened pencils—this blue-gray one impressed with a haiku by Basho, With dewdrops dripping/ I somehow wish I could wash/ this perishing world.