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Sears Catalog
Tamara Madison

We’d call each other when it came. 
From the kitchen telephones in our homes
five dusty, farm-chemical-soaked miles away,
we’d divvy up the pages; everything
on the left mine, everything on the right Lori’s. 
We’d skip the power tools and appliances
and go for the housewares, clothes and toys. 
If I liked the dad in the forest green wool coat
with the fleece lining she’d trade it for the dad
in the navy Scandinavian print sweater. 
She’d choose the Batman costume worn
by the little blond boy and I’d trade it
for the princess gown with the silver tiara
that she said looked silly.  On the rare occasions
when we disagreed, we might agree to an exchange,
say, like the plaid skirt for two long-sleeved blouses,
one checkered with a cowgirl yoke, the other
striped.  We got our moms new sheets and curtains,
and from the children’s section we’d sometimes decide
to trade the kids for new siblings and ignore the clothes
altogether.  We’d trade boys’ toys, girls’ toys, guns
and ammo, shower curtains, and even, if we were
in the mood, couches and toilets.  After an hour or so
of trading, someone would need the phone and realize
how long we’d been on it.  We’d hand over
the receiver, sticky and hot from use, and plan
to finish the next day where we’d left off, on page
382.  This went on until the time she made me mad
and I got back at her by telling someone else
about the secret language we’d made up
and by the time we decided to be friends again,
something happened that my parents didn’t tell me
about and we moved away, leaving behind a friendship
sealed between the pages of a Sears catalog.

© by Tamara Madison.
Used with the author’s permission.


Tamara Madison teaches English and French at a public high school in Los Angeles. Raised on a citrus farm in the California desert, Tamara’s life has taken her many places, including Europe and the former Soviet Union, where she spent 15 months in the 1970s. A swimmer and dog lover, Tamara says, "All I ever wanted to do with my life was write, and I mostly write poetry because it suits my lifestyle; I like the way one can say so much in the economical space of a poem."



Post New Comment:
barbara eknoian:
I got a kick out of "where we'd left off on page 82," and the ending was poignant.
Posted 07/23/2014 10:12 AM
I thought that I was the only kid who had ever had imaginary dads selected from from the Sears Catalog!!! Thank you so much for giving me permission to bring those memories out of dusty box!!! Wonderful memories.....
Posted 01/20/2014 08:39 AM
My mother was an assistant account to Dept. of Rose Fashions. Later on my younger sister had been given an award in Sears for devising a helpful suggestion. They are both gone now but, I am sure they would loved to have seen this poem. Thank you.
Posted 01/15/2014 05:47 PM
If readers like this poem (and they will!), they should check out Wild Domestic (above)!
Posted 01/15/2014 12:36 PM
Posted 01/15/2014 09:30 AM
Brings back wonderful memories of my brother and I, picking out things for our imaginary "mansions". So enjoyable to read this!
Posted 01/15/2014 08:52 AM
What a marvelous game! And a lovely description. I'm going to think about this all day. Thanks, Tamara. (Yes, I still remember party lines, too, and even remember our phone number from those days -- it makes a great PIN.)
Posted 01/15/2014 08:03 AM
Trading imaginary dads, oh my. A secret language indeed.
Posted 01/15/2014 07:48 AM
i remember black kitchen phones and party lines and Sears Catalogs...such an innocent time..thanks, Tamara for bringing it back.
Posted 01/15/2014 07:02 AM
Wonderfully evocative!
Posted 01/15/2014 05:11 AM

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