A Small History of Shopping

When I was thirteen,
my one-buck allowance
would buy a week

of luxury in Warsaw’s shops,
black-market leather,
amber chunks on silver chains,

kilo baskets of bleeding
fruit. Ten thousand
zlotys to the dollar.

Or all the presents
that my parents brought
from Paris, West Berlin —

the dolls in national
costume standing quiet
on their metal stands, whole

girls cast in miniature,
articulated joints,
each bisque mouth seamed shut —

a kind of glittering
answer to absence,
which filled the bookshelves

in my room. No wonder
that all shopping bags
became an opening,

my hand always reaching
through the crisp whisper
of tissue paper, trying to weigh

the value of cashmere socks,
chocolate truffles
in their padded, velvet box.

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