‘Presbyterian Support Services’, by Brian Turner

It seems a wan place to be
perhaps because you’re surrounded by discards
and you’re aware that some would say
you could do with sprucing up yourself …
which, by certain standards of the day –
what others are there? – is true.

The down-at-heel often seem
stripped of pride in their appearance
was what your spic father intoned,
asserting they lacked that cluck of self-esteem,
and though money’s sure as hell
not everything, what do you do
when you haven’t got much of it
except rummage about in an op shop
where there’s more hush than hurrah?

You guess there’s no pat answer
and while most of the clothes
have a lot of life left in them
they are dulled by their failure
to disclose the dramas
they were party to. Not only that,
you’re nagged by the thought
that the last time
you bought a pair of jeans here
a female friend wondered if you knew
they were really a woman’s
and you ought to have known that
by the waist measurement
and the size of the arse.


  1. I volunteer in a local op shop (which raises funds for our local nursing home). The time I spend there has taught me some valuable lessons. Like accepting that I am also a person in need, like learning to live with difference and limitation, and like forming friendships with our ‘regulars’. The shopkeepers near our little op shop in Milton are also very precious to us – they are full of humour, graciousness and compassion – don’t even know how many of them would be ‘Christian’!


  2. I wonder how Brian Turner’s sequel would read after he visited Shop on Carroll, 10 Carroll Street, Dunedin – one of Presbyterian Support Otago’s three Op Shops . . .


  3. Jason, I have a shift at the op shop next Tuesday morning. I’ll show the poem to Janey (Country Leather shop) and Dale (upmarket kitchenware!). I know they’ll love it.


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