Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Poem for Sunday: Overheard in a Thrift Shop

    The Menagerie © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
The Menagerie © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

This was a conversation between two people which I overheard, secretly taking notes, as I was browsing the overcrowded racks of a local thrift shop after dropping off some dishes for donation. The rhythm of a conversation between two people who know each other well and working in tandem, in this case the cashier and a volunteer who were unpacking and tagging things, has a rhythm of its own built on the familiarity of the two people, and can often sound like poetry, so instead of my initial idea for a short story based on their conversation, I wrote it up as verse.

Honest, open, unguarded conversation between two people is so precious.

I showed the cashier my writing later and asked if she minded if I published her story in this way. She was fine with the idea and told her friend, the volunteer. The cashier and I have since become friends.

. . . . . . .

Overheard in a Thrift  Shop

Oh, look at this yellow lab painting, it’s so nice. I’ve always liked yellow labs. I have one now.

I don’t have a dog, but I wish I could.

Well, I always said I wouldn’t get a dog unless it was a rescue,
so I probably wouldn’t get a yellow lab,
but this dog came from a neighbor’s daughter
her brother had been feeding the dog—
she had twelve puppies.

Twelve puppies?!

Yes, and they all lived.
The owner put them all outside
and he probably never fed her right.
The boys found her and started taking her food.
Their sister found out
and went and told the guy she was taking the dog and the puppies.
He didn’t care.

Well, how did you get the dog?

Well, this girl, she was only 17,
but she knew right from wrong,
and she found homes for a few puppies and took the rest to the shelter.
She got the mother spayed and things were fine,
then she was killed in a car accident.

Oh, my!

Her father took care of the dog, but then he went to jail.

Oh, no. So did you take the dog?

I offered to keep the dog until he got out;
it’s a short sentence—
he’ll be out later this year.

Bless your heart!
Are you sure he wants the dog?

He already asked about her.
Think it has to do with losing his daughter.
I mean, she was only 17, and killed in an accident.


I’m sure the cat will miss the dog too. They’re friends.

You have a cat too?
You sure got a full house.

Yeah, the cat belonged to my daughter-in-law,
she got him for the boys,
but after a year or so, the cat started to pee on the boys’ things,
they were going into puberty, you know,
I think it was that hormonal thing.
She tried everything, but the cat wouldn’t stop.
She gave him to a neighbor, an older man
who lived by himself,
and the man kept the cat in the basement with a litterbox and food and water.
Then the man told me the cat was getting some litter on the floor.
That’s okay, I told him, just sweep it up, it’s probably clean.
Then the cat started coming upstairs,
and he told me it was pushing his golf balls around.
That’s okay, I said, that’s playful.
Then he said the cat woke him up in the morning, he touched his nose to the man’s,
and I said, just give the cat to me.

Bless your heart! You are a soft touch.

Yeah, I don’t know how it will be when the dog goes,
but he lives close, I’ll be able to see her,
and I’ll be ready to take her back at any time.
At least I’ll have my cat.

Overheard in a Thrift Shop © 2010 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

. . . . . . .

It’s not just the stories of the rescues and how the people involved loved their animals while life was taking some pretty wicked turns, but the whole idea of second-hand things, the animals, the people, the merchandise in the store, still capable of giving pleasure, giving love, and being a whole part of the lives of those around. Saving things, and animals and people, because they are worth it.

I’ve published this poem twice before on The Creative Cat, once when it first happened in 2010, as soon as I could, and again last year as part of my series of rescue stories. The text has remained the same from the beginning.

cat rug

The photo at the top is of vintage post-WWII animal-themed ceramic planters in my friend’s shop, Carnegie Antiques, where I once had my shop. These whimsical and brightly-colored planters were intended to be given to people as get-well gifts, especially expectant mothers who visited the hospital for their births. Hospital births, extended hospital stays and advanced medical care, some of which was made possible through the experience of battlefield care in the war, was something entirely new in the American experience. Even in that era, right after the Dust Bowl, the Depression and WWI and WWII, people realized the role of animals in our lives.

. . . . . . . .

I was determined not to purchase anything when I dropped off my donations, but right inside the door was this feline-themed rug…and I was hooked. These are nice to have around the house, and often I use them in my displays at shows or festivals, indoors or out, especially if I’m on concrete. They also come in handy as donation items to benefit shelters and animal organizations. Since this one looks completely new, that may be its fate, my way of thanking the universe for giving me this poem.

Read and listen to more poetry

My feline-themed poetry

Read more feline-themed poetry here on The Creative Cat, including a few I’ve recorded and even created video slideshows to illustrate. Click here or choose Poetry from the categories list.

And visit my Poetry page for my poetry about all subjects

My poetry is organized on my website on one page, all alphabetical, so you’d have to scroll down the list, and many of these poems also appear in the pages I’ve built for my annual poetry readings. I encourage you to visit those pages so you can see even more artwork, even if it isn’t of my cats or my backyard.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

cats for adoption

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

6 thoughts on “Poem for Sunday: Overheard in a Thrift Shop

  • That older man was unclear on the concept. First time I’ve ever heard of anyone dissing a cat for playing with a ball. Most likely he wanted the cat to save HIM a stroke or two. . . .

    I think thrift stores are the best: Pre-loved things come with ch’i already installed. Out here, they call them “resale shops” (because they’re not always thrifty any more?).

    • Meg, when I heard her description of the cat I immediately thought what a sweet kitty it was! He definitely didn’t get it–and didn’t deserve the cat!

      Around here we call everything “the Goodwill” because Goodwill stores have been around so long, but “thrift shop” is kind of outdated, “resale shop” is usually consignment and “second-hand shop” is next to “pawn shop” in popularity–now we’re going to “vintage” for everything. But I only shop when I either need something specific, or when I just need to get myself something small and I know I’ll walk out with something I like.

  • There is something wonderful about that poem. The conversation, the rhythm you felt, the whole timbre. It is life affirming! Thanks, Bernadette.

    • Carolyn, I still can’t believe how lucky I was. It’s still one of my favorite thrift shops in part because of the woman in the poem–we trade stories all the time.

  • What a brilliant poem and I am so glad you took notes. thanks for sharing such a delicious slice of life with us.

    • Sparky, as soon as they started talking I couldn’t wait, I knew it would be way beyond just that moment.


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