The Self-Appraising Shop
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When I was young my mother held me close,
pressed shut my eyes, and told me of
a certain shop.
Never stop, she urged me. Never stop,
if you should see it on the street, or
in your dreams, or perched on the horizon,
like a balance-beam.

But why? I asked, for until that moment
there had never yet been shop nor street
from which she had forbidden me.

For there lies strange and wondrous things
within, said she.
And no shopkeeper, so you may think
it fine to simply peek within.
The shop itself will buy and sell!
But to buy—you must sell.
And a high price it shall take:
the miner trades his lungs
for iron lungs, the mermaid gives its flesh,
and young assassins carve out their hearts
for ones of chatoyant ore.

But now the miner finds
the air will always taste of rust
and with its new feet the mermaid walks
as if stepping on needles.
And for each life the assassins take
their hearts will tarnish, grown heavy
and heavier
til they fall from high walls.

For the shop takes more parts
than can be seen or felt.
Take my hope, you may say—
to lose despair
for the two come in a pair.
Yet life without hope
may not prove kinder
than a life in disrepair.

So saying, she lifted her hand
from my eye—just one
so I could peer into her own
which glittered green, like glass.
And I thought to myself
how I’d never seen her cry
nor shut that eye for sleep.

Many years my mother lived
and when finally she died
the only thing left of her, when burned
was that eye made of glass.

But now I am old, and have seen all
the ways that oneself can be lost—
to work, to war, and to the chore
of merely living.
So ere tomorrow, with mother’s eye in hand
I may just pay a visit
to the self-appraising shop.

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