In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

By Ted Kooser b. 1939 Ted Kooser
In musty light, in the thin brown air   
of damp carpet, doll heads and rust,   
beneath long rows of sharp footfalls   
like nails in a lid, an old man stands   
trying on glasses, lifting each pair
from the box like a glittering fish   
and holding it up to the light
of a dirty bulb. Near him, a heap   
of enameled pans as white as skulls   
looms in the catacomb shadows,   
and old toilets with dry red throats   
cough up bouquets of curtain rods.

You’ve seen him somewhere before.   
He’s wearing the green leisure suit   
you threw out with the garbage,   
and the Christmas tie you hated,   
and the ventilated wingtip shoes   
you found in your father’s closet   
and wore as a joke. And the glasses   
which finally fit him, through which   
he looks to see you looking back—
two mirrors which flash and glance—
are those through which one day
you too will look down over the years,   
when you have grown old and thin   
and no longer particular,
and the things you once thought   
you were rid of forever
have taken you back in their arms.

Ted Kooser, “In the Basement of the Goodwill Store” from One World at a Time. Copyright © 1985 by Ted Kooser. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: One World At A Time (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985)

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Poet Ted Kooser b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Ted  Kooser

Biography

Poet and essayist Ted Kooser is known for his honest, accessible verse that celebrates the quotidian and captures a vanishing way of life. Brad Leithauser wrote in the New York Times Book Review that, “Whether or not he originally set out to…[Kooser’s] become, perforce, an elegist.” Populated by farmers, family ancestors, and heirlooms, Kooser’s poems reflect his abiding interest in the past, but escape nostalgia in part because . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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