Listless in the Eternal Hellscape of the Souvenir Shop

An image of the interior of a souvenir shop. A mannequin with a fluffly hat and coat stands in the midst of shelves packed with what appear to be Russian dolls.

A sign above the door invites you

to bring a curse home: tatty kitsch

in heaps, overflowing the clear plastic bins

dividing miniature 8-balls from magnets

emblazoned with dire portents. A docent

lounges against the counter, bored eyes

drifting from face to face as if memorizing

you for a test. The broken legs of Ozymandias

keep company with acts of aberrant taxidermy,

and all the paintings in the art room

watch clattering tesserae of porphyry

and agate drip through your fingers,

the memory of ruined palaces. Shelves hold thin

volumes of local ghost stories, cheaply printed,

fat histories full of half-truths, grimoires

bound in cheap leather already parting

at the corners, but none of it enlightens.

You choose a ragged bun adrift from its head,

strands of discolored hair shaped and held

with worn sticks and rusted pins.

A Roman matron wore the original,

her soul condemned to eternity

in a hall over the café that smells

of burnt coffee beans and stale

potato chips. Alas, we all diminish

in death, but until the grim end knocks

on your door, you can pretend to wait

for a Caesar’s return. The docent

smiles as she slips a lead tablet

into your bag, no larger than a playing card

or a sales receipt. An odor reminiscent

of incense wafts from the back seat

as you drive away, a whispered call

to old gods and rulers telling them

their hour has come round again at last.


Shy and nocturnal, Jennifer Crow has rarely been photographed in the wild, but it’s rumored that she lives near a waterfall in western New York. You can find other examples of her poetry on several websites and in various print magazines including Uncanny Magazine, Kaleidotrope, and Analog Science Fiction. She’s always happy to connect with readers on her Facebook author page or on twitter @writerjencrow.