Sunday, February 1, 2009


I have read some quite beautifully written passages
on pawn shop windows through the 1940's and 50's,
Words of excellence in description of knives, trumpets
and open razors; engraved wafer blades and back lit
mother-of-pearl handles. Banjos and harmonicas.

There is little illicit magic in those shops any more.
25% OFF! they scream; All Cheques Cashed Inside!
It is as big a business, just legitimized and louder.

I have lost some fine things to pawn shops through
the intervening years. Tickets uncashed. Memories
rewritten. Chased away forever as the foam on small
beer settles and cold beads collect on the side of a glass.
Things which make music are the hardest loss to bear.

Inside is the worst, with all those unclaimed items
littering the aisles. Nothing hidden. Pinned out; splayed.
Like somebody's mother in an armchair after Saturday's
night out. Or face down on the concrete of a car park.

Like watching crows with pushchairs picking through
the belongings of the newly dead or simply departed.
Paying over the odds, finally, but glad to have profited
out of their next door neighbour's idiocy or crisis.

Even should you open the door hesitantly - the glass
whispers on oiled hinges now - there is no going back.


Unknown said...

I, too, have lost numerous (formerly) treasured items to the pawn shops... A couple guitars, a bass (1969 P-Bass, fer Chrissakes! Why?!)... and many other things that turned out to be less valuable as I'd hoped.

Sometimes, even when I had the cash to get stuff out, I'd convinced myself how I'd learned to live without [whatever], and I should probably take that cash out on the town, instead... Sigh... "Good Times, Bad Times" just popped into my head.

ib said...

Yes, that story sounds all too familiar.

I think I preferred those days where the shops had little wooden cubicles where you could stand and haggle privately. These new super "showrooms" have all the gravitas of an episode of "The Price Is Right".