An Object Gathering Dust

Toy soldier gathering dust
Toy soldier gathering dust

If relationships in my early twenties taught me anything, it’s that I left women with a sense of buyer’s remorse. I didn’t turn out to be the man they saw in the shop window. My first impression ran out of steam. My bravado deflated into cowardice. The image they tried to project on me, no longer fit.

There’s how a man ought to be, then there’s me.

In 2006, I wrote a poem about a toy soldier losing the admiration of his owner. What started as a piece about a waning romance, became a critique of the ideal man. The poem broke down the expectations set by the greatest generation, chipping away at Americana idealism.

This has always been one of my favorite pieces, but every time I set out to share it, I held back, thinking it was too personal. It took the support of my readers to shed those reservations. I hope you like it.

An Object Gathering Dust

Window shopping on main street
A gust of wind
Snatched the scarf from your neck
Blowing it across the boulevard
Leaving it on the window sill
Of a vintage toy store

Where you saw a clean cut,
Broad shouldered, toy soldier
Decked out in World War 2 apparel
Iconic in its shrink wrapped chivalry
A throw back to an era
Of courteous square jawed gentlemen
Who lived to open doors and hold hands
A Norman Rockwell day dream
A sparkle toothed smile
Complete with the sound of a glass tap

This toy soldier
This prince charming
All your girlhood fantasies
Wrapped up in cellophane

You altered your work route
To walk by my window
Your left hand shaking
Your right hand deep in your purse
Clinging to your wallet
Fighting the urge

One night a dream
Carrying a vision of your man
Walking down the white staircase
Of an aircraft carrier
Burned itself into your mind’s eye
You had to throw fifty dollars on the counter
To appease the Sandman

My attempt to make myself look like a plastic toy soldier
My attempt to make myself look like a plastic toy soldier

You took me home
Unwrapped me
And sat me down
As the guest of honor
At the head of your tea party table

You stared into my half moon eyes
With all the love the world had
For Jimmy Stewart
For Humphrey Bogart
For Frank Sinatra

In Michigan I was a lump of plastic
Lying on a conveyor belt
But in your arms
I became the spirit of a decade
A symbol of an America
Revered by the rest of the world

When I slept beside you
You dreamt of an approaching cavalry
Parading through small town streets
Of boy scout meetings
Of slippers
And corn cob pipes

You were Audrey Hepburn
With her man on her arm
The belle of the ball descending the staircase
In her long velvet gown
An airbrushed pin up
On the nose of a jet
That all the fly boys
Just had to tip their hats to

A sudden flicker of random eye movement
And we were French kissing on Ellis Island
With fire works off in the distance
Our hands cupping one another’s elbows
The moon framing our silhouettes
We became the skyline

But one day you woke up
To find that the green of my uniform had washed out
That my jaw had chipped at the edges
That the half moons of my eyes had faded
And my frozen salute had lost its meaning

You still took me out to the bar
But my smile couldn’t compete
With touch screen Gin Rummy
You buried me in your purse
When my shadow
Eclipsed today’s cross word puzzle
The spirit of the 1950s was gone
America was a different place
With a different skyline

I went from a Christmas miracle
To an impulse item
Yesterday’s playmate
To today’s inanimate object
And all the love you had to give
Went back to being a lump of plastic

You took me off your pedestal
And put me on your shelf
Never to be played with again
A relic of your sense of romance
Looking down at you through incense clouds
An object gathering dust

Here’s looking at you, kid

13 thoughts on “An Object Gathering Dust”

  1. Drew, this is gorgeous. Makes my own attempts at reading poetry sound facile and short-tempered. A great poem and a great voice – very, very well done.

    1. Thank you so much. This one has been in the archives for a long time. I’ve recorded myself reading four or five times now. I’m finally happy with how it turned out.

      I’m so glad you liked it.

      1. It’s so hard to get those recordings really on point. This one was very well done. It sounds both natural and rhythmic. Congrats on stellar execution 🙂

  2. Yeah, I had that issue in my relationships with girls in my early twenties as well. Then I realized why and started dating men. #HintHint

  3. “You buried me in your purse
    When my shadow
    Eclipsed today’s cross word puzzle”
    Love that! Personally, I find that He Man picture you sketch very, very scary. He sounds like an incubus. Thanks for sharing a bit of (old) pain. I love your comical pieces, but this one really does it for me.

    1. Thank you so much for checking the piece out.

      I found the He Man picture I was sketching scary at the time. It’s an expectation of manhood I could never live into.

      I have a few more pieces like this. I figure I post one every so often between the comical ones.

  4. This is really great Drew and glad you’ve been able to show it the light of day.

    It’s interesting though, that I think it is a poem which can speak for so many relationships. What we portray to others in the early days or during the chase is not always the ‘real’ us. How can it be? We all come to a point where we cannot hide behind the facade, even if it is only a small one.

    What we show of ourselves in the shop window is our very best, and yes, in the end, sometimes to the wrong person we fade and the novelty wears of. But for the right person, they grow to love the chipped jaw and the faded uniform, because those things become shared memories.

    No one “ought” to be anything. perhaps as we get older, we get better at saying: “This is me: warts and all, much earlier on. We come to realise the facade can only ever be temporary so we don’t embelish it as much..

    Anyway, great poem, beautifully read as ever. Thanks for sharing something clearly so personal to you.

    1. The funny thing is, these types of starry-eyed romantic poems used to be all I ever wrote. I was hesitant to share them when I first started the blog, because I was afraid these decade old pieces would be mistaken for recent entries by friends and coworkers. I used to get “Is this about me messages” back in the LiveJournal days.

      Now, I figure if I like something I wrote that long ago it must be something worth sharing.

      I’m really glad you liked it. When you said, “What we show of ourselves in the shop window is our very best, and yes, in the end, sometimes to the wrong person we fade and the novelty wears of” you hit the nail on the head.

      As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

Leave a Reply