Today's poem is by Denise Duhamel

eBay Sonnets

            —for John D. Freyer

Bidding Time left:
14 minutes

7 bids

The first time I moved to a warm climate
I only lasted four months, fated
to buy back the winter coat I'd donated
to the Combat Zone's Goodwill. I was upset
no one had snagged my coat in my absence.
Was my taste so bad that even the poor
clicked hangers right past my leopard fake fur?
I'd failed in Arizona, now the dense
Boston slush seeped into my plastic boots.
I'd junked a used Corvette in Tucson—
a car that could have been worth a fortune
if I'd only cared to fix it up. Loot
was not yet my forte. I overpaid.
I even got looks of pity from rough trade.

Pity my rough drafts, my false starts, my trade-
mark pink SASEs I was sure would catch
a big editor's attention. But batch
after batch of my poems came back with staid
"no thanks" notes in my inane envelopes.
I worked in a rare bookstore in Cambridge,
selling first editions and unabridged
collections of Alexander Pope,
which made me think longevity was creepy—
some poets relegated to bargain bins
while other poets were like mannequins,
modeling their in-vogue verse obliquely
from their famous graves. I was twenty-one.
I worshipped every poet's skeleton.

Now I bid on each poet's skeleton—
Plath's metacarpus, Sexton's mandible,
Dylan Thomas's expandable
temporal ridge. My screen name is "No-Pun-
Intended," but my eBay friends call me
"No-Pun" for short. I once resold Sappho's
pristine pelvic girdle for a mind-blow-
ing six times what I paid for it. Pretty
good for someone brand new to Pay Pal.
I still look for book bargains on half.com
but I think the market's future's in bones—
no water damage or fading. Apples
and oranges, some might say: bones and books.
But are they so sure? Have they really looked?

Sure I was fine, I never really looked
at my IRA accounts until
retirement anxiety, middle-
aged angst, set in. I cautiously took
out the folder with my sealed statements
and opened each one, the funds dwindling down
as the dates got closer. I was a clown
with a face full of whipped cream pie. Fate went
on as I wrote my poems. Contributors'
copies stacked up like confederate bills.
My journals were literary road kill,
un-auction-able. Financial advisors
say this is common: twenty-somethings blink,
they're forty, then eighty. Life's highest jinx.

In 1984, I might have jinxed
myself for good. My uncle said video
rentals were the next big thing. He owned
a storefront and wanted me to lease Pink
tapes to the next generation
of moviegoers who'd watch in the dark
of their living rooms. I was sure this spark
would never catch. Clearly our nation
was built on overpriced popcorn and cokes,
date nights and bargain matinees, wasn't it?
My uncle proposed a fifty-fifty split,
but I though the VCR was a joke.
Of course, now I always obey the sign:
Before Returning, Don't Forget to Rewind.

Next time I return to eBay, I wind
up in the poets' used clothing section—
Marianne Moore's hat, Emily Dickinson's
flannel skirt and gray boots, a real find.
My accountant says I can deduct them
since I wear the clothes while writing poems
I now sell exclusively on-line. My tomes
on American Idol and Friends are gems
for which my eBay readers eagerly
outbid each other. I promise my fans
that even I don't keep copies. They can
rest assured they own the only
volumes of one-of-a-kind manuscripts.
No more readings for me, no more lipstick.

No more readings for me, no more lipstick.
Now my persona depends on a ghost-
like absence. I quit my teaching job, post-
poned any interviews. Louise Glück
tried to talk me out of obscurity.
Then she saw my eBay seller's profile—
5 stars, 100 percent. "You're liable
to have copycats," she sighed, pretty
sure most poets were looking for a way
out. My stock portfolio's flowering.
My poetry is still empowering
women. A poem's worth can triple in days.
The lucky gal who sells is out of debt.
And I can retire in a warm climate.

Copyright © 2005 Denise Duhamel All rights reserved
from Smartish Pace
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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