American Life in Poetry: Column 677


I'm devoted to yard and garage sales, and love to spend time with friendly strangers in scuffed front yards and oily, dim garages. Here's a poem by Matthew Brennan, who lives in Indiana, from his 2016 Lamar University book, One Life.

Yard Sale

The renters bring out their greasy table,
End of the month again: It sags,
Weighted and warped like them, unable
To hold much more than glasses and rags.
Old clothes and rusty tools compete
For space with magazines they stole
From garbage bins behind our street;
Each shoe reveals a run-down sole.
A few come by, inspect, and leave,
Almost always with empty hands.
But when, at sundown, all things cleave
To slanted light, and when it lands
So rubber, glass, and metal glint—
And for a moment make you squint—
You'll see our neighbors bathed in gold
As if their worth cannot be sold.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 "Yard Sale," by Matthew Brennan, from One Life, (Lamar University Literary Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Matthew Brennan and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.