This poem is inspired by the topic I addressed in my previous post, which talked up the closing of a couple of anchor stores at West Towne Mall here in Madison. As I mentioned in that post, the eventual closing of the Boston Store chain, including its West Towne location, first made news back in April (it’s slated to close for good this week). Sometime after that, this poem started percolating in my mind. And in all truth, I finished it pretty quick, or at least quick enough to perform it in an open mic performance the last day of June at Mother Fool’s. (Yes, it was a few days after I lost my job. Yes, performing helped take my mind off my job search a little bit.)
In prefacing this poem at that performance, I asked a show of hands from the audience of about 20 or so, inquiring as to how many of them had the chance to check out the Boston Store closing sale at that point. The response wasn’t 100 percent, but more than a few (60 percent was my guess) put their hands up in the affirmative. The rest of the audience? Well, I think they spend too much time on their computers. (Dang you, Amazon!)
Regardless of whether they had or would eventually check out Boston Store before Boston Store checked out, it seemed that the audience that night appreciated this poem and its subject matter. Perhaps it’s this poem’s use of emergency metaphors (i.e. “someone call 9-1-1”) and change in tone from “hey, look at these bargains” to “hey, where did that store go?” Perhaps, too, it got them to thinking that a brick-and-mortar store is worth having where they live, no matter if it’s a well-run mom-and-pop operation or a big box managed from a distance; if it’s a clothing store or supermarket; or if it’s a sale on back-to-school clothing or… in my case, a chance to add the next best thing to my crossdressing closet. Perhaps when you read these words, you, too, will think the same way about the stores and malls where you live, and what and who are left behind if they are vacated.
Big sale today!
Everything has a lower price tag!
Have a look at these markdowns:
Women’s fashions and men’s suits
Their prices are half-off!
Save 60% on shoes!
Home and bath décor, 70% off!
Eighty percent off housewares!
Wow! These items are priced to move!
Big sale today!
Every department has signs…
In clear black and white
And urgent red and yellow
That communicate a meltdown:
“Going out of business!”
“Closing our doors!”
“Everything must go!”
“All sales final!”
“Fixtures for sale! (See manager for details)”
Big sale today!
Everyone pays a price
Have a look at the signs… and the costs…
Of this sad letdown:
Friendly clerks at the registers
Seeking new employment and sales rushes
Artists at the makeup counters
Who must draw up resumés
And leave their facial paintbrushes
Store managers in the backroom
Brushing up their own resumés
Accountants with calculators and laptops
Making sure every penny doesn’t go to waste
Liquidation officials walk around
Wearing suits and ties and looks of purpose
Unsympathetically presiding over
This garish, hideous circus
Sad, bored “carnival barkers” on street corners
Who look as if they’re down to their last dime
Holding signs that tell the world, “Please, come and see…
This sale that will be worth your time”
Customers swarming around like vultures
Picking apart the remains of this carcass
Seeing if these items are will fit them
And wondering, “Eh, maybe I can find them at Target”
At least they’re showing credit cards
And looks of empathy
And words of sensitivity
To the clerks who leave their uncertainty hiding
At least they’re not snidely telling them,
“I hear WalMart and Home Depot are hiring.”
When all is said and done,
There will be an empty space
Of what once was a bustling, successful store
There will be a haunting, unsettling peace
Landlords will seek someone who’ll sign a lease
But they’re fearing, “This may take a while…
“No, this won’t be the last store to close…
“Yes, there will be more.”
This store faced the wrong end
Of a loaded mouse going, “click, click, click”
Emergency! Call 9-1-1!
Another struggling business down!
Now lifeless, this store mummifies
In a large body bag
One hundred thousand square feet in size
Tagged not with a shingle proudly hung
But bathed instead in gaudy colors
Of signs that said…
“Big sale today!”
“Everything has a lower price tag!”
“Have a look at these markdowns!”