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“Emporium”

This poem is posted in response to prompt #115 on ReadWritePoem: What do you believe? This poem fits that theme, although it was written in the couple days before the Thursday prompt. This version of the poem benefits from the feedback of first readers RL, JG, and JH.

Since 1973 at the age of 14, I have been an atheist. I think that this natural life is my only existence. I don’t believe in any supernatural realm (afterlife, reincarnation, etc.).  I believe that the primary purpose of my human life is to struggle with my best and worst impulses (mature love vs. immature selfishness; courage vs. cowardice; honesty vs. self-deception; effort vs. laziness) while staying in relationship to family members and others.

This poem is about how I felt during a brief period (April-May 2008) when I might have been facing a life-threatening condition. During that period, I felt little dread of death. Instead, I felt a profound loneliness, an acute regret that I might not continue with my husband and daughter on their journey through this earth of great riches and wonders. Life with loved ones is the only paradise possible for me.

.
…………………………EMPORIUM

…………………………For two weeks in April
…………………………while waiting for lab results
.
…………………………my life halted
…………………………as if I stood at the bottom
.
…………………………of an escalator rising
…………………………more slowly than ever
.
…………………………to the upper floors
…………………………of the finest store on earth.
.
…………………………The only two
…………………………who mattered then —
.
…………………………my love and our daughter —
…………………………seemed balanced
.
…………………………beyond arms’s reach
…………………………on gliding steps,
.
…………………………headed to sets of crystal
…………………………and diamonds and silver
.
…………………………spoons.  For two weeks
…………………………in April, I practiced waving
.
…………………………my family onward
\……………………….without me,
…………………………without me
………………………..without me, onward to
…………………………those departments of joy.
.
…………………………Graduations. Weddings.
…………………………Brand new babies. All
.
.……………………….gbirthdays yet to come.
…………………………For one slow fortnight
.
…………………………in April, loneliness
…………………………was that final smile
.
…………………………I put on display
…………………………as a gift to others,
.
…………………………for just so long as
……………………….. the world above
.
…………………………kept shining, arrayed
…………………………for their taking.
.
.
…………………………by Therese L. Broderick
.
.
.

About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

15 responses »

  1. You are quick!

    I stopped by to read this and think this is absolutely lovely, especially your metaphor of the escalator advancing towards all the future treasure in store for those you love. The way you structured the poem almost reminded me of a literal escalator, in the visual sense.

    Well done.

    -Nicole

  2. The sense of dwindling is very strong. The narrator is not leaving, the others are.
    I believe the afterlife was invented because we can not imagine no longer being (for lack of a better way to put it) the point of view.

  3. It’s very good to have you back at gypo, Therese!

    I have goosebumps. So moving, this. I find it interesting how you used the emporium/department store as a locale signifying through potential purchases the various meaningful events of the life you might have missed out on. So much of our lives happen in the marketplace and much of the rest of it we prepare for there.

    Thanks for sharing such a strong and highly personal experience with us in this beautiful, moving poem!

  4. You convey the feeling excellently, though I suspect it has to be experienced to truly understand it.

  5. I am reminded of this season of death I am facing: the first week in April when I lost my brother and my dear friend, both too young… and each time I start getting intimate again with those days, something washes over me that is indescribable…

    and your words are so very close, only from a different perspective.

    Your two lines:

    “in April, I knew loneliness
    as my last smile”

    I think of that day, in April – the last time I shared eye contact with my brother

    I think of that day, in April – when I prayed for it to be a cruel April Fool’s Joke – and then in April, that same week, negotiating their last argument. Disbelief. The feeling of my vocal chords valiantly pushing out as I spoke….wishing I didn’t have to say those words, THOSE words.

    Wow.

  6. This is one of the bravest things I’ve ever read, both the introduction and the poem, and I feel honored that you’ve chosen to share it. Especially things like this:

    “For two weeks
    in April, I practiced waving
    my family onward
    without me”

    Astonishing and powerful and unashamedly honest. Thank you for this.

  7. Very moving Therese… life with loved ones is the only certain paradise, celebrate it! :-)

    …rob

    Moonfall

  8. So impressive, Therese. Quiet, simple, dignified and very powerful.

  9. An intensely personal piece still well-crafted and excellently wrought. The poet’s sensibility only enhances the person’s emotion here – so many poems that are intensely personal forego the careful craft that you show here.

  10. nicely written,,,I really…truly like where this came from and where it went…thanks for sharing this

  11. So good, Therese: quiet, dignified, contemplative and powerful beyond its modest, economical format.

  12. I’ve never thought of life as an emporium till you imagine it here and now the idea will stuck permanently. Thanks for writing a poem that is so very honest.

  13. Therese…thanks you soooooooooo much for your comments…very encouraging

  14. An admirable piece of work. Having been ‘saved’ two times from my finale, I feel the emotions you’ve written here. Powerful and raw beauty.

  15. Therese,
    This is beautiful and I see what you are saying about leaving behind your love and your daughter. This is an introspective journey on that escalator. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

    Pamela

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