The op-shop (Where does it end?)

We came out of the op-shop with a fitted sheet,
a packet of birthday cards and a cutlery drainer.
We chose the white mesh cutlery drainer as a pen-holder
for our desk. The sheet is red, for our latest bed.
The cards are to send to those who expect a card
and, more importantly, to those who don't.

We like to look in the op-shop because of the randomness.
There's always more things we think we need.
We dry ourselves on flat scratchy towels from the past,
their terrycloth loops reduced to threads by washing
and washing and washing and rubbing on skin and rubbing
on skin and rubbing on skin. Our vintage singlets
are ragged at the armholes and hems, but we can't fix
their machine-knitted network. Better to turn them
into carry bags, or something. We could spend
our one-room evenings turning rags into things.

Perhaps the op-shop has some shirts in colours
other than black. In Kundalini Yoga
teachers wear white. It extends their aura by a foot.
(How can an aura be measured with Imperial tape?)
But Buddhist monks wear orange. That's their rule.

At the op-shop we were lucky to get a fitted sheet
so new. And so red. I think of your red
wedding sheets, your Oriental guide.
I think of my intellectual vices. I think
of the poster on the wall of the Juicy Beetroot: a speaker
from the All India Progressive Women's Association.
Where is the Australian branch? We could meet
in the back room of the op-shop. We could meet
in the Juicy Beetroot. We could meet in Forrest Place
with an enormous banner and a permit from the police.

We could live a year buying nothing except from an op-shop,
and have more money for intellectual vices.
The minds of leisured young men. The hubris
of the Augustans. Pope with his buttoned-up couplets.
Wordsworth on his gap year. His longhand passport.
A rearrangement of the books, piled higher and deeper.
Beckett with his terrible tramps. Plath with her blood-jet.
Where does it end? Where do we put the singlet

that is too ragged for the op-shop whose purpose is not
to recycle but to generate money? In the cleaning aisles
of K-Mart and Bunnings there are packets of rags for sale.
Don't the people use old towels and singlets?
If this were India we could sell our rags by the road
instead of working for the minimum wage in an op-shop.

First published in Not Entirely Present