Estate Sale

The first humiliation is waiting in line on the brick walkway, which is bordered in boxwood and leads up a few steps between pillars to the open front door. This is my first estate sale. A freckled man from Chadwick Antiques sits on a stool. He lets a few people in as others leave. They come out unsmiling, lugging lamps, end tables, chairs.

The women in front of me chat about things I pretend I’m not thinking: I want to see inside the house, there’s another sale down the block, I wish this line were faster. Then it’s my turn, and I step into the entryway like an invited guest, pause, then turn left to the dining room, the silverware, silver candlesticks, silver cups, crystal jars with silver lids, all crowded together on a long mahogany table. Formal china plates painted with golden vines that twine around peacocks are stacked on the floor on a Persian rug. The rug is for sale. In a built-in cupboard, teacups and saucers tilt against thin dishes with scalloped edges. A rush of desire to own someone else’s beautiful things floods down through both arms into my empty hands.

I know now that you cannot spend time wondering who left this home, or how they left it, or when, or where they went. You cannot be disturbed by the next room, the white kitchen cabinets emptied, taped shut with blue tape, the dinner plates, glassware, cereal bowls spilled out, jumbled together, filling the marble...

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About the Author

Marlene Muller is a teacher in Seattle. Her poems have appeared in Cistercian Studies Quarterly and Pontoon: An Anthology of Washington State Poets.