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The Old Curiosity Shop, a Poem

John is a freelance writer, ghost-writer, storyteller, and poet. He always tries to include a message or social commentary in his writing

December 1941. "Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. Along the main street." Medium format negative by Jack Delano.

December 1941. "Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. Along the main street." Medium format negative by Jack Delano.

The Old Curiosity Shop

In a part of town where very few stop

The dark atmosphere makes you shiver,

A hanging sign, "Curiosity Shop"

Fronts an old store down by the river.


With no thought or care for current trends,

The proprietor is most reclusive.

With few relations and fewer friends

And his customers very exclusive.


A wooden Indian stands by the door,

A cracked wind-up clown cackles laughter,

Antiques and oddities cover the floor,

And cobwebs hang down from the rafters.


Paraphernalia adorns shelves and walls,

The interior fills you with wonder.

But few people visit and fewer still call

Unless upon the small shop they blunder.


Leather goods on display, coats, wallets and bags

But something about them's not right.

On the wall heads of bear, cougar, and stag

Pose an eerie and unsettling sight.


A shrunken head sits on its own little stand,

The mouth and eyes stitched tightly closed.

Hair black and tangled hangs down in long strands.

From where this was sourced no one knows.


A shelf full of bottles contents grotesque

Have attraction for curious eyes.

Appliances with uses complex,

Like thumbscrews for torturing spies.


The shopkeeper talks in an unfriendly growl

Even though he must be very lonely.

A customer asks, "How much that stuffed owl?"

"It's taxidermed! Ten dollars only."


He places the owl in a box, which he ties

Then pushes it towards the man.

But he doesn't see what the counter hides,

The knife in the shop keepers hand.


Should you happen to wander to this part of town,

It is hopeful you don't stroll alone.

Rumours are always accompanied by frowns,

And they say people don't make it home.

Off the Shelf

Thank you for reading this far, and if you didn't realise already that this is another in my Off the Shelf series, well, you do now.

For those of you that are new to my writing, this is where I select a book from my shelves and use the title as inspiration for a poem, short story, or article.

This time it is obvious that I selected a classic Charles Dickens' tale The Old Curiosity Shop. * I reiterate here that my poem in no way based on the story by Charles Dickens. I just use the title for inspiration of my own storyline.

Dickens was only 29 years old when he began writing The Old Curiosity Shop but he was already riding a wave of popularity after writing three previous novels The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.

In fact, it was the success of those three that literally forced Dickens to write The Old Curiosity Shop. He had just launched a magazine called Master Humphrey's Clock, which was to feature stories and articles written by himself and others. Purely on Dickens' reputation, 70,000 copies of the first issue were sold, but when readers discovered that he had no new novel in the works, orders dropped off dramatically.

Not wanting to disappoint his readers, Dickens immediately scrapped the idea of further issues of the magazine and instead focused his attention on writing another novel using a minor character from one of the short magazine stories as the heroine. Little Nell, through her ventures in The Old Curiosity Shop, became one of the best-loved heroines of the 19th century.

Though I have a few of Charles Dickens' novels (David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, and Oliver Twist) The Old Curiosity Shop remains my favourite. If you like Dickens and 19th-century novels, I am sure you will enjoy it too.


© 2019 John Hansen