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“Wasteland…”

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This poem was written in response to prompt #111 on ReadWritePoem: write about Milad Gheisari’s photograph entitled December 21, 2007 #25. The photo appears HERE. The artist’s website is HERE. This version of the poem benefits from the feedback of first readers RL, JG, and JH. See also the Writer’s Statement within the comments.

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…………………………WASTELAND with BOY and BROKEN CHAIR
 
…………………………Soon at nightfall this kneeling boy will burn
…………………………whatever he can find for warmth, even so strange
…………………………a thing in the desert as this crippled chair,
…………………………arm and leg long ago torn off, seat sliced away.
…………………………He keeps his hands in his lap, holds kindling 
…………………………for lighting a fire before the sun goes down.
…………………………Surfaces are already turning red: that scar 
…………………………marring the seat of the chair, clay in the earth.
…………………………And beneath the hood of his jacket — a glow
…………………………to the face, survival’s early watch, that first
…………………………shame. Too softly he recites a few dry words for
…………………………no one to hear, wood shavings in the sand, there
…………………………where an old idyll splintered and sank, one empty
…………………………throne, and the hero who never rode upon it.
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………………………….by Therese L. Broderick
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About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

17 responses »

  1. Amy Taratus Neumeyer

    Wow. The scene is so vivid and the boy’s needs palpable. I don’t even want to check out the photo that inspired you or it might alter the picture I have in mind.

  2. Therese I love what you did with this photo. You captured the essence of it. Nice.

    Pamela

  3. WRITER’S STATEMENT

    When I studied the photograph which inspired this poem, I wondered what time of day was caught by the camera. An argument could be made that the scene takes place in the morning. I took the risk of writing this poem as if the scene were taking place near nightfall. The only reason I have to justify my assumption is that when I looked out my own window at 3:52pm on Wednesday, January 27, 2010, the winter sky and light looked almost exactly like the light in this scene: a rosy tinge as the sun went down, and a bright blue gap of sky in the white clouds. When I saw that real atmospheric effect, I was certain that I could set my poem near nightfall.

  4. Hi Therese,

    I really like this; the scene you’ve created. And you made me look again at that chair. I hadn’t noticed the red scar on the seat’s edge; tying it to the earth.

  5. You’ve done a wonderful job with the photo prompt. And that last line is so meaningful.

  6. You know, I wondered the exact same thing about the timing… hard to tell except that it’s daytime.

    Your attention to detail in this is astonishing, and so far, you’re the only person I’ve seen respond to this prompt by talking about burning the chair. But there’s still reverence in it, for if it gives warmth in its destruction, then it’s still a special object. Excellent stuff! ^_^

  7. The poem draws on the picture’s Dali-esque post-apocalyptic landscape to powerful and atmospheric effect. A most effective interpretation of the prompt.

  8. you showed much imagination with this and painted your words to leave whoever reads it a complete picture without ever needing to look at the one provided. (it looks like dusk to me also!)

  9. You’ve so carefully detailed the scene that the final lines, “where an old idyll splintered and sank, one empty / throne, and the hero who never rode upon it.” completely catch me unguarded — breathtakingly so. Terrific work!

  10. I like the way in which you describe the survivor’s
    happiness in being alive but only for an instant before the shame sets in for feeling these emotions because everyone else around him is dead.

  11. Mesmerizing ideas to flesh out the frame. No need to see what you have painted — it is all yours now. Reverence, ache, humanity. Beautiful.

  12. great read Rall…you did a good job with this great photo….some really good ones this week …as usual…..thanks for sharing …cheers

  13. therese, in reading this, i thought, “of course he’s going to burn the chair for warmth.” what a wonderful and believable story for this.

    it is enhanced 10-fold for me by this: “that first/ shame.” wow!

  14. Beautiful piece. Beautiful!

  15. I really like this piece especially the glimpses under his hood and the last line. I felt his desperation and I hoped he’d get that fire going.

  16. I finally settled on morning, but like everything else in the picture, it’s impossible to be definitive about that. You have painted this beautifully. A suggestion which doesn’t remove the enigma

  17. I wasn’t sure if my scene was morning or evening at first, and considering that the speaker in my poem was hallucinating, I’m not sure it really mattered.

    I like how you captured the sorrow of the boy before the broken chair (“that first shame”) and his intention to burn it to survive rather than to leave it alone and die. The last lines were my favourite: “Too softly he recites a few dry words for no one to hear, wood shavings in the sand, there where an old idyll splintered and sank, one empty throne, and the hero who never rode upon it.” To me, they evoke a sense of the empty chair hinting at a missing father. But that’s just me.

    Great work this week.

    -Nicole

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