Basement Collections

I’d forgotten until now
the collection of toys
in the basement

I never played with
over the few years
we lived in that house.

They gathered so high
you could wade through them
with no repetitions.

If I had to name some
I would start with the KISS doll,
Gene Simmons with his tongue out

and all, already stripped
nude, his clothes probably
in another pile. The matchbox

cars in cigar boxes,
paint chipped and peeling.
Raggedy Andy reclining. Voltron

or a cheap knock-off
approximation. Eventually I left
my Transformers down there,

assuming some in-between shape—
half machine, half invalid.
Over time I amassed

a vast collection of playing
cards, some miniature
size, just right for my hands,

including the deck depicting
the Eagle Mascot
of the 1984 Olympics.

And don’t forget the deck
with the figures of Michael Jackson
before the fire singed his hair,

posing on every face card.
I guess I’ll count
my guitar with the broken

strings, as well as the cast
from when I broke my ankle
playing baseball on the pavement

with its collection of multi-colored
names, except we kept
the cast too long, and it became

overrun with mold.
I still wanted to keep it,
just like I wanted to keep

the Tastykake wrappers my friend
sent from Philadelphia
to Seattle because we couldn’t

get them there. Just like
the jar of candies from France
I only ever ate a few of,

still propped on my dresser.
Just like the books I ordered
from Scholastic Book Services

that I never got around
to reading, having moved
onto other things

by the time they arrived.
And I’ve moved on
from the basement by now,

obviously, although I still
crave from time to time
the diet chocolate sodas

I only remember drinking
from the refrigerator
in the corner of the room.

2 comments

  1. Everything seeps into each other on the sea of attic toys. GI Joe claims authority over Castle Greyskull after Cobra occupies the My Little Pony mansion, demanding equal rights for GoBots, despite their obvious inferiority to their Transformer brethren. M.A.S.K. tries their best to infiltrate both camps, but their mundane orange pickup trucks seem just a little too innocent. Hot Wheels stop to stare at the carnage, unaware of the highspeed glow-in-the-dark rocket train barreling down the tracks toward their die-cast souls. MUSCLE Men strut their stuff and feign indifference even while a eunuch Ken mocks their inadequate size. And of course every total world is at the mercy of the attic itself: the sweltering heat warping Luke, and Vader drinking his own troubles away, the Green Lion struggling against the webs that have imprisoned him in his toybox tomb, the secret League of Heroes hideout condemned for squirrel shit and general lack of maintenance, the generic action figure shattered by the slingshot of a disturbed young boy who kept all the pieces in repentance for his actions. And, yet, regardless of decay and misuse, of revisionary history and narrative subversion, there is still something particular about these childhood corpses that continues to have value for you…-J.B.

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