Death of Teaticket Hardware by Alice Kociemba

In this poem Alice Kociemba explores both the significance of a supportive and caring relationship and the poignancy of loss and missed opportunity. I like the gentle humor, great details, and the way she takes us into her confidence. The poem also describes the importance of listening well – something this poet and psychotherapist knows a lot about. Well known on Cape Cod for the nostalgic mood it creates, the poem won an eInternational Merit Award from the Atlanta Review (2011).

– Barry Hellman
Cape Cod Poetry Group


Death of Teaticket Hardware

I never knew his name,
nor he mine.
He was always there.
Patient. Polite. Shy.

I never knew the name of what I needed, either.
But he did. After listening.
“You know that thingamajig
that connects the hose to the washer.”
“I need the innards of a lamp.”

He’d find it in a flash —
through overcrowded aisles,
so narrow only a munchkin could maneuver.
In the back of the store, on the dusty top shelf
where whatsits live.

He’d tell me how to use it.
And he’d tell me again,
drawing it on the little scratch pad
he kept at the register (not the electric kind)
next to the dish of pennies
and the bowl of lollipops.
I would always leave with a red one,
and confidence.

He was the kindest man in town.

I imagined he went home at 5:30 every night
to the apartment above the store,
and told his wife over meatloaf and mashed potatoes
green beans and pecan pie:
“That lady came in again today, seems bright enough
but doesn’t even know a lamp has a socket.”
And he’d smile when she would say, “Oh, Mrs. Dimwit.”
And they would turn on the News at Six.

The drive to town is eerie now
that Teaticket Hardware is gone.
Boarded up windows stare like a zombie
whose soul’s been stolen by Wal-Mart.

Peter Cabral, son of John, son of Peter, son of John,
I never said hello, or goodbye, or thank you.

Alice Kociemba’s poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, the Aurorean, Avocet, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Comstock Review, International Psychoanalysis, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, Plainsongs, Roanoke Review, Salamander, Slant, and The Write Place at the Write Time, and in the anthology Like a Girl: Perspectives on Feminine Identity.

Her first poetry collection, Bourne Bridge, is forthcoming from Turning Point, in April, 2016.

She is the founding director of the Calliope Poetry Series at the West Falmouth Library, and since 2009 has facilitated a monthly Poetry Discussion Group at the Falmouth Public Library. She was a Featured Poet at the Cape Cod Poetry Group’s July, 2014 Poetry & Music event at the Truro Meeting House.

Alice has also served as the Guest Editor of Volume III of the Cape Cod Poetry Review and the 2015 & 2016 editions of Common Threads, the poetry discussion project of Mass Poetry. She is the first poet to receive a Literacy Award from the Cape Cod Council of the International Reading Association for promoting literacy through poetry.

When asked, “How did you get interested in poetry?” Alice credits Emily Dickinson with saving her sanity after she suffered a severe head injury in 1986 and couldn’t read, drive or work for six months. Shortly thereafter, Alice wrote her first poem, “seizure,” about her experience.

Born and raised in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood of Boston, Alice now works as a psychotherapist in Falmouth, MA, where she lives in a house overlooking wetlands.

Poet’s Comment:

This poem was inspired by my reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Kindness,” which I used for a while as part of my daily meditation-writing ritual.

“Kindness” begins with the line, “Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things”. Then I remembered one of the owners of a small hardware store, which closed, along with many other local businesses, as “big box” stores came to town. “Death of Teaticket Hardware” came to me quickly, as an exercise in gratitude.

A narrative poem, with self-deprecating humor, “Death of Teaticket Hardware” is probably my “favorite poem” to read aloud. When people hear it, it evokes feelings of nostalgia, because they remember their own ordinary places and extraordinarily kind people.

I think this is why poetry matters. It reminds us all to slow down, to pay attention and to appreciate, and maybe even praise, the ordinary before it passes from our lives.”

— Alice Kociemba

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