Two weeks ago I was walking along Kaler Road and I came across a neighbor’s yard sale. There was a time in my life when I went to yard sales often, sometimes riding with a friend and making a day of it. This was before the internet, before you could find used items on Craigslist or eBay. Before Facebook. You had to search from sale to sale then, checking the newspaper, watching for signs and hoping for some luck.

Anyway, I talked briefly to the woman running the yard sale, someone I’d never met before, even though we live close to each other. She told me all the money she made from the yard sale was going to finance a pilgrimage she was taking. I’d spotted a wheeled log carrier for $5 that interested me, but she was putting things away and I had no money with me. No problem, she said. She was going to run the sale again the next week, so I decided to come back then. Except I forgot until late morning the next Saturday and the log carrier was gone when I got there.

That’s the way it is with yard sales. You can’t go back and expect to get what you want. Buy it now or forget it. It’s a way of life for some people, driving from yard sale to barn sale to garage sale looking for bargains. Labor Day, a big yard sale weekend, has come and gone, but there are still lots of bargains out there.

The poem I’m sharing this week is by a good friend of mine, Karie Friedman, who died four years ago. She lived in Montville and often wrote about daily life in that area. I admire what she has to say in this poem, how these sales are about making connections with neighbors. You don’t have to agree with their opinions or politics. In fact, you’re not interested in such things. You just want to find a small bit of common ground and maybe buy a flowered vase, baby clothes for a grandchild, or some old canning jars now that it’s harvest time.

This poem is from Karie’s book “Add Water, Add Fire,” which was published posthumously by a group of her poet friends.


Barn Sales

It’s not the Flow Blue china,

snatched up by dealers at 6:00 am,

the handmade rake shaped like a menorah,

or fabled roadster in its mantle of hay

that draws us out on weekends


to follow cardboard signs,

balloons jerking on strings,

to park where cars gather like ants

around a honey-barbecued wing.

And not entirely the allure


of vases, tools, wheel rims bringing us

to the sawhorse tables. We browse

from sale to sale, a paseo on wheels,

greeting neighbors and strangers

with whom we share this game


and a use-it-up frugality,

banter as if our sagging houses

with their ghosts, their pantries

full of mason jars, their woodstoves

make us all of a kind. Not so, of course,


but a comfortable conceit. If some

are drunks or cranks, with a stash

of guns down cellar, we don’t want to know.

We pay cash, keep it light, don’t ask

or tell our secret spots for cutting


holiday spruce tips, fiddleheads, shrooms.

In barn sale country, we mingle just

enough to get along. A certain lack

of focus helps. Benign myopia. Flow Blue

rather than Blue Willow, you might say.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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