! ! Hardware Shop - Poem by Michael Shepherd
There's nothing so becomes a man
as a local hardware shop - it expands
the horizons of his home improvement, and
brings harmony to his home life as
those little jobs get done;
and although these days a car-trip
would take you to an out-of-town
with wider variety and lower price,
there is greater delight in detailed chat
with that little man around the corner
who's been there since - oh, you knew his father.
He's got it; or will get it; you chat; come out feeling good;
there's order in the world. Things get done.
But they're a dying breed. We had two - didn't know
just how lucky we were until Mr and Mrs Tidy
(how many Tidy generations of hardware had there been?)
with their two shops run together - he in one, she in the other - and
he identified just what it was you wanted; she
knew just where they kept it - suddenly they went, still sprightly young, to
a well-deserved retirement, after a life of virtue.
They exuded some sort of spiritual strength
between them; as if your purchase had
a hint of allegory in some non-conformist book of life.
Which left the other hardware shop. I hoped
that their departure would encourage his own trade
but it was not to be. The stage set of his shop is perfect -
behind the obligatory front-of-shop basics, put out
each day - camping gas, the bags of dried manure,
plastic bins of every size -
the shop is filled in every nook and cranny, leading to
a further vista of boxed shelves, a hint of aisle on aisle
to joy the DIY-er's heart - and
that faintly oily, metallic, woody, dusty, smell - the precious essence
of a hundred years in that same shop, of visits by
a century of proud home owners, treasuring their addiction..
but this is a man upon whom no tidy destiny, no spiritual path
has fallen. Enter his crammed shop with hope, of the friendly chat
that from the furthest depths, produces just the size
of split boggle ring of finest brass that you were looking for,
and what do you get? Twenty minutes of sad-smiled, patient
explanation of why he hasn't got it; couldn't get it,
because they'd want an order of two dozen. It's only done
in industrial sizes anyway. And the supplier's changed hands
and you'll need to change the whole system to metric.
You should have known - for it was always so:
for this he exists, as if living out a punishment for past sins
against the gods of hardware. Or should you (itching to get away)
join in the sad elegaics for a world in ebb, the small shopkeeper
who existed only to serve his fellow villagers? To talk to him
makes you feel that somehow, somewhere, in the back room
of shared humanity, it just might be - your fault...
At last you get away, empty-handed; and wonder at
this world of little shops and shopkeepers:
the joyous absurdity, the hidden tragedy
of lives you daily knock against, yet never really know.
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