Tokyo Via Palm Springs

Upscale castoffs from Hollywood movie queens, rock stars,
opera divas. Their walk-in closets, cavernous vaults
to be mined by blue-haired ladies
for heartbreaking charities. All proceeds going
somewhere foreign, and very deserving.

Mannequins layered in pongee and sequins
gestured at asbestos ceiling tiles, chiffon sleeves
fluttered in an oscillating breeze.
I had wandered into Celebrity Seconds,
lightheaded at the promise of escape from the heat.

Sunglasses off, pupils adjusted,
I wedged myself between racks of taffeta and netting,
flipped through hangers that rustled like withered fronds.
I was a giantess pawing dead wardrobes, a hopeless misfit
in acres of clothing from deceased starlets.

I squeezed toward cases of trinkets, and I found
bubbly green TOKYO in block letters askew on a brooch
propped in a diorama with a Shinto shrine of matchsticks.
I was on the other side of the world, in another century,
snowy Fujiyama a silk-screened backdrop.

The patina and dirty rhinestones were tagged “circa 1950,”
maybe earlier. Post-war and dangerously radioactive?
A soldier’s keepsake. Bought at a dance?
Or on the damaged street from a wan urchin
hoping to feed what was left of her family?

Strict advice printed on a slip of paper:
Vintage is delicate, best kept sealed in a shadow box—
Never rinse under a faucet. Never attempt to clean.

I could have sworn when I paid,
the lady said, “You can always count on change.”

Bowing my neck I almost gushed, Oh yes.
Once home, I couldn’t wait to wash it of its accumulated
past. Paste stones turned milky and sickly,
weak soldering on pot metal snapped—
TOK and YO in my palm.
I stirred like a seed in Japan.

Cathryn Shea’s poetry has recently appeared in Permafrost and Sonic Boom, and is forthcoming in Absinthe Poetry Review, Allegro Poetry Magazine, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Dirty Chai, Gravel, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Snap Bean, is published by CC.Marimbo (2014). She is past editor and adviser for the Marin Poetry Center Anthology, and is the author of dozens of software and database manuals.

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