What’s in Your Trunk?

5 Min read

New England’s largest flea market*

Poetry for Emergencies–on the folly of fame, legacy, empire

Sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Book rec on writing song lyrics

Toolbox, use 7 senses to improve writing**

Texan king in a cow pasture

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Take all the stuff of your life. Put what you think will sell in a 20 feet by 20 feet space.

What’s in your space?

A beehive hair dryer, rusted and faded green with crossed-footed stand, the metal dome on wheels made me envision an alien species, sitting in a row, booklets in hand, Stepford women, fortified and cloned, armed and ready.

Hanging from a thick strand of human hair, tied into that rusty beehive was a training head, suspended above the dirt. The mannequin cocked, plastic face, eyes askew. It was more than mildy disturbing on a Sunday morning.

Hundreds of vendors set up in the stretch of valley, a rise of yellows and oranges and burgundies in the hills, sun out, brisk 50 degrees. The scent of kettle corn.

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Inside the entrance, a bluegrass band thrummed tunes by the lone oak tree. Double bass player, fiddler, and guitarist singing to the treasure hunters and up-cyclers. Aisles and aisles of trinkets, tins, costume jewelry, retro signs, blankets, hardware, plateware, flatware, furniture.

Fresh-made donuts, meats, pastries and coffee, the food vendors along the roadside.

Blue hard case Samsonite with plastic handle, propped open on a stool, jutting into the walkway, its satin lining stacked with black and white photos. A couple, Bridgeport, 1904. Faces and poses in sepia. Someone’s mother, a distant cousin, newlyweds, friends.

As fog dissapated in the morning rays, I thought of the shoeboxes of film and photos on my basement shelves, from my father, from my father-in-law and his family, going back.

Standing in the market aisle, picture in hand of three young men, the weight of it, the cardstock smooth in my palm. Looking at the hills, the rows of sellers and their wares. The things they collect. My mother-in-law with her corningware, her fiddles and tunes. My father with his gadgets, the Reel-to-Reel and Zenith Transoceanic radio. In some odd way, I felt them both in this field of artifacts, a slight tension in my body, a sense of their past loves and likes, seeing through their eyes. I set down the old picture, shuffled through the pile. Moved on.

A stout woman with unkempt hair by her minivan had tidy piles of Look and Life, sleeves of magazines, cloth-covered books. A black man was seated at his open van door, WWII uniforms hanging behind him. I touched the headset of the rotary phone.

“The young people,” he said. “They don’t know what’s going on around them.”

Made my way to the kettle corn. Gray strands of hair hung from the woman’s head. She took my twenty dollars into gnarled fingers with orange and black acrylic nails. The kettle was large enough to sit inside and I could smell the caramelized sugar. Bent and withered, she reached out with my change. I thought of Billy Crystal in Princess Bride, Miracle Max in his cottage.

“It’s too salty!” my mother said. “It’s SO good.” She repeated herself, salty and good. I tasted the popped kernel on my tongue, the burst of salty-sweet.

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What would my space look like?

Crates and crates of books. Classics, best sellers, book club fiction, young adult, references, writing guides. Many would be unsellable, with the tabs, dog-eared pages, and markings. A surplus of Army gear and clothing. Military and wooden trunks. Boxes and tins, wooden ones, cash boxes, brass containers. Puzzle boxes. Jigsaw puzzles, hand-cut and laser-cut. For someone set on purging, I have a suprising amount of stuff.

On my way here and leaving the house, I felt as one does when we escape from our desk to go outside, problems once looming and large, left behind. The valley and its distant walls, the hundreds of us, sellers and buyers, at a fall gathering, a coming-together for a morning, to peddle the grift and grain of our brief humanity, to share and to take, to give and to receive.

It was a Thanksgiving, the human connection more ephemeral but real, and the sense of bounty and gratitude to just be, on this grand scale only nature can bestow.

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All the stuff recalls the sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, who mocks Rameses II (Ozymandias is Greek), as king of kings, the statues he erected of himself, and their demise. The trunkless legs of stone in the desert. The shattered visage, the sneer of cold command. Now…nothing beside remains of that colossal wreck.

Here’s my ode to the flea market

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To trade the stuff,

To pass it on,

To know there’s no holding on,

When you’re gone.

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What would your space look like?

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Percy Bysshe Shelley, English Romantic poet (1792-1822) and his sonnet, Ozymandias

The Broken Statue of Rameses II which was believed to have inspired Shelley’s sonnet.

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FOOTNOTES

*Elephant’s Trunk is New England’s largest flea market, located in New Milford and the Litchfield Hills. Sellers rent spaces on Sunday (8:00 am to 2:00 pm) for $60 from April to December. I took my mother and cousins on this 45 minute ride to enjoy the fall foliage; my mother loves thrifting.

*Outside Amarillo, Texan artist Lightin’ McDuff built a 24-foot tall sculpture of disembodied legs, a poke at the futility of monuments and a tribute to Shelley’s famous sonnet. It is not listed in guidebooks and has a faux plaque. The work was commissioned by the eccentric and troubled Stanley Marsh, known for his prankster-type exhibits such as the 10 classic cadillacs buried nose down.

Google image results for “Amarillo Ozymandias”

**Write through the prism of the seven (7) senses, the traditional five (5) of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste, which I use above. And use two more, according to Pat Pattison’s Object Writing in his book, Writing Song Lyrics: organic and kinesthetic. Organic relates to the body and kinesthetic is about your relationship to the world around you. I tap into the former when I’m standing by the luggage with old photos, how my body reacts. And I relate to kinesthetic sense when I describe what it feels like to stand in that field, the sensation of gratitude, a feeling of being connected to others and to the earth. I am loving Pattison’s book and in spite of my distaste for collections, ordered my own copy, a used but very good copy which arrived in the mail this week. I must transfer my tabs and now I get to mark up my book!

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Oct 23, 2023

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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