after Joseph Cornell
He spoke of neighborhood thieves and his passion for a singer whose name we’ve long forgotten. He lived on donuts. He prowled junk shops for pictures of exotic birds and ballerinas, old maps, a tarnished figurine. He looked like a haggard tramp. Tramp thin. His house was a firetrap. He kept notes on his fixations. A naughty little man was how Duchamp’s widow described him. The magician of the second-hand. He was obsessed with the young girl who lived next door. There will be many loves like this, the gypsy fortune-teller would say until her machine went on the blink. Her predictions were always the same. Years ago he gave my mother a small gift, inscribed and tied with a bow. She never opened it. He took it back feeling unloved and bitter. Back to the shoebox theater of his mind to rejoin a vast collection of odd souvenirs: a rabbit’s foot, the pocket atlas, a defective compass, the tiny hourglass from some shabby penny arcade.