I love trash T.V. Not the trash television of Kardashian fame. But, real trash—Flea Market Flip and Antiques Road Show trash—stuff found in dank basements. Stuff that has been polished into its former beauty. Stuff that lends itself to breaking and remaking. It’s about the transformation, whether that transformation happens in the eye of the beholder when Granny’s tea set fetches a king’s ransom or when the transformation is in actuality a physical one, like when the steamer trunk becomes a hipster bar for a NYC apartment. And maybe it’s not just the transformation, but the transformative power that saves these found items from oblivion that most appeals to me. Akin to the collectors who come to these shows clutching their treasures to their chest, I covet found fragments of eavesdropped conversation, bits of Ripley’s Believe It or Not trivia, wisps of song lyric, faded photographs, and newspaper clippings, so sure that some DNA strand of truth resides within them. Perhaps it’s part hoarding and part existentialist crisis. I, myself, am becoming vintage—somewhat chipped and awash in patina, but all the more elegant for the time spent soaking up the dust and worries of the world around me.
Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. Perhaps, it’s a matter of respecting time—apportioning a while to true observation. Consider the beige pseudo-suede couch by the dumpster. I found it while walking the puppy in the early morning snow. It glowed under the lingering moon and seemed to wantonly collect the confetti of snow that came to rest upon it. And I wondered how long it had been the embrace of comfort for a tired workman or the trampoline for a barefoot toddler before it became the beer-soaked weathered resting place for head-banging coeds. The collector in me couldn’t let it go. I snapped a shot of it and now the couch is ensconced in a mixed media collage with an old clock, a murder of crows, and a haiku on ochre crepe-textured paper.
I am still wondering about the woman with the vacant eyes in the subway, who sang out “Control” every so many beats, allowing us to hear the accompanying Janet Jackson lyrics in our own minds. Her clear peals of declaration flew out and away from her and then returned to her in measured time. This is rolling around in my pocket with the buffalo head nickel I found that same day.
As I get older, I fear loss. Poinsettia painted teacups. Lovers. The B-side of Motown 45s. Bone buttons. Art Deco earrings. The names of ancestors. Addresses. The denim blue skies over the Long Island Sound. One day, someone will toss my place. Send my stuff to thrift shops and libraries. So I bury my treasures in my poems. I trust that archivists will sense them. Excavate them. Curate them. Keep them safe.
Antoinette Brim is the author of the poetry collections Icarus in Love (Main Street Rag, 2013) and Psalm of the Sunflower (Willow Books, 2009). She is a Cave Canem Foundation fellow, a recipient of the Walker Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies. A printmaker, Brim recently exhibited both poetry and monoprints in Jazz: An exhibition of Poetry, Prints and Photography at the Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery in New Haven. Learn more about Antoinette at antoinettebrim.com.