Tonight I once again will be reading at our local Open Mic. This is the poem I wrote for the occasion. It is about the place and community from where I started - Fair Oaks, California. I hope you enjoy it.
Nardinelli’s Hardware Store
The Saturday morning Siren call led us -
to the corner of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Main
across from O’s café in the village -
just down from the Five and Dime
where house sparrows and oak titmouse rest
safe from the red-shouldered hawk and
cool in shade tucked along edge -
of the sagging oversized wrapped porch.
A porch haphazardly lined -
Lined with coiled garden hose,
coiled like diamondback rattlers basking in Sierra mid-day warmth -
Lined with teetering stacks of lawn seed,
Gurney’s gardening seeds,
winter blend bird seed, and
seasonal idea seeds to inspire emerging project.
Lined with hand-lettered bargain signs -
made of recycled cardboard box covered with blinding white butcher paper -
marked with wide black grease crayon -
all inviting exploration through wooden stoop.
We step through the worn entry made of Ponderosa,
the Siren beckoning grows louder,
discernment wains as our nose is filled -
with aroma of ancient dust from reverent places,
or at least, serious places.
Filled with aroma of freshly heated buttered popcorn -
poured into small circus animal adorn sacks -
we are filled with the aroma of chaos and heterogeneous mixtures of recent sales -
sawdust, paint thinner, and perhaps pesticides.
With your large warm hands, you gentle cradle my fingers
And we are silent as we make our way to the isle of bins -
Listening to the clacking of paint cans in the shaker,
using the giant inflatable GraybaR GE lightbulb
hung from the ceiling -
advertising the “Symbol of Quality”
as our north star.
We pass brown paper lunch sacks -
strategically stationed next to the old spring scale.
Then the bins - bins as far as forever - full of
Hitch-pin clips and cap screws
Cotter-pins and clevis-pins
Sinker nails, carpet nails, and Brads.
I released your hand - dipped into the cold steel of 20-penny common nails,
sighed a long exhale and closed my eyes –
dipping again – and again – and again.
The split-lock washers are next,
then the spacer disk fall between fingers
while you search for the needful things.
All the horror and warnings of war on the Magnavox will not erase -
the calming and satisfaction of these brief moments - before resuming our journey -beyond the key duplication station and sports fishing licensing -
we again turned away from horror to create tactile memory of community.
Nothing remains the same, from that day to this.
Bob’s Cycle Center now displays Trek, Electra, and Felt
over Everett Nardinelli’s plank fir floor,
I am old, and you are gone.
Yet, I still hear the clucking of communal roaming chickens,
I daily feel the coolness of stamped steel and I embrace the stubbornness of the tenacious Oak that overhangs the American River.
And the warmth of community that used to radiate
through my father’s hands on Saturday morning adventures
now blaze even hotter for his succeeding generations.