I worked in a shop for imported items in Harvard Square.
That’s in Massachusetts, near Boston.
When you came inside, the entire place
smelled of sandalwood, cork, and jasmine.
This was before everything sold everywhere
was imported from other countries.
Well, in the early days of liberated consciousness—
1967, to be exact—I was a cashier in that shop.
One cargo included hand-carved wooden sculptures from Taiwan
of a hand with an upraised middle finger.
This wasn’t the plastic gewgaw you later saw everywhere,
but something crafted by woodcarvers who must have thought
this strange object had religious significance for Americans.
One night a little old lady—since this was Boston,
a very Bostonian old lady—carried six of them
to my counter. She said: “Such lovely ring-holders.
Just the thing for my grandnephews this Christmas.”
So early in the days of liberated consciousness—
and in Massachusetts besides—
I didn’t know how to tell an old lady
these items were neither ring-holders
nor suitable gifts for her grandnephews.
So I rang up the six “ring-holders” and bagged them.
Besides, I really liked imagining this:
Christmas morning in Back Bay, Duxbury, Manchester-by-the-Sea,
the smell of pine and fresh-baked muffins in the air,
as one by one six grand-nephews
would open neatly wrapped packages
sent with love by Great-Aunt Prudence.
Drawing by Joseph Yeomans