Iowa Writes

SCOTT LAWRENCE-RICHARDS
Auction


The temperature at ten a.m. is minus four.
At least the sun is out, the wind is slack,
and a few outbuildings offer shelter.
Still, it's plenty cold.
I finish half a Styrofoam cup of fifty-cent coffee
before it turns too cool.

I don't know why I'm standing in packed snow
at a farm auction in the middle of January.
There are a couple of hay racks stuffed
with crumbling cardboard boxes
which are themselves stuffed with shop parts
or half-used automotive oils
or yard chems
or paints in unmetropolitan shades.

The diehards, mostly farmers or blue collar labor
decked in tan duck canvas coveralls,
Sorrels, and caps and hoods,
crack wise about deer season or ice fishin';
nobody really comments on the weather
or makes clichés about the cold;
it'll be frosty for too long
for anyone to think it's funny.

I've come for an old Triumph Tiger,
but I can pretty much already tell the motorheads
are going to drive the bidding beyond my bank balance.
There's a drill press that might go cheap,
and I'm strangely attracted to a lever-steered lawn tractor
with a fifty-inch cutting deck.
Iron log chains, lacking any atomic motion,
coil like meteoric dust from the rear drawbar.

The temperature at ten a.m. is minus four.
At least the sun is out, the wind is slack,
and a few outbuildings offer shelter.
Still, it's plenty cold.
I finish half a Styrofoam cup of fifty-cent coffee
before it turns too cool.

I don't know why I'm standing in packed snow
at a farm auction in the middle of January.
There are a couple of hay racks stuffed
with crumbling cardboard boxes
which are themselves stuffed with shop parts
or half-used automotive oils
or yard chems
or paints in unmetropolitan shades.

The diehards, mostly farmers or blue collar labor
decked in tan duck canvas coveralls,
Sorrels, and caps and hoods,
crack wise about deer season or ice fishin';
nobody really comments on the weather
or makes clichés about the cold;
it'll be frosty for too long
for anyone to think it's funny.

I've come for an old Triumph Tiger,
but I can pretty much already tell the motorheads
are going to drive the bidding beyond my bank balance.
There's a drill press that might go cheap,
and I'm strangely attracted to a lever-steered lawn tractor
with a fifty-inch cutting deck.
Iron log chains, lacking any atomic motion,
coil like meteoric dust from the rear drawbar.

One woman, the auction clerk, is shapeless
beneath a white parka and knit scarf.
Her pencil, proof against the frost,
jots lot numbers and prices onto tear tickets.
The auctioneer has found a chair in the back
of a truck with a camper top. His microphone
crackles. Frosted breath rises above the crowd.

Bidding starts.
A cold voice barks "Who'll give a dollar."
A ringman coaxes the bidding higher.
Hands cut half-signs on bid calls.
A head nods.
A finger lifts.
A price gets waved off.
The bidding is knocked close.
A box clears, another opens, a life gets sold.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


SCOTT LAWRENCE-RICHARDS

Scott Lawrence-Richards earned his BGS and MA degrees from the University of Iowa. He has recently had work published in The North American Review.

This page was first displayed
on January 24, 2008

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