Invitation to Poetry: Empty Chair

Invitation to Poetry

The week before last when I posted the Open Doors photos I was very moved by the enthusiastic response.  Pam made a great suggestion to use them as a writing prompt.  So I think I may experiment here with that once in a while — just post a photo or photo series and invite you wonderful readers to add your words.  I know there are many poets who read here, so feel free to leave a comment or send an email with your poem or other words that come to you.   You can also send in meaningful quotes from others that connect for you with the image.  In the next few days I’ll post everyone who participates and provide links back to your blogs if you have one.

What words does the photo above evoke for you?

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Kievas Fargo shares the words of DonMcClean’s song Empty Chair:

Morning comes and morning goes with no regret
And evening brings the memories I can’t forget
Empty rooms that echo as I climb the stairs
And empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs

And I wonder if you know
That I never understood
That although you said you’d go
Until you did I never thought you would

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Empty Chairs by Pamela McCauley

Our spirits become infused
into the chairs of our lives.
Even when they become empty,
traces of the person remain.

There, at the beach house
in the chair in the corner,
my mother would sit for hours
with her knitting needles.

The click of those needles
can still be heard
as I pass that chair
on summer evenings.

Her boundless love of family
comes back to me
as if she is in that chair
once again.

There is an ache,
realizing the chair is empty.

But also, a joy, in knowing
that all that we have loved in life
remains soaked with our spirit,
even the chairs that appear so empty.

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Milton Brasher-Cunningham at Don’t Eat Alone writes this poem in response:

empty chair

what is
the difference
between
open space
and emptiness?
vacancy
and opportunity?
barrenness
and belief?

in one of
my favorite stories,
Ian had a chair
in the shape
of a hand
an open hand
a tender hand
God’s hand
to hold him

I drive by
furniture stores
yard sales
sometimes
hoping to see
any chair
that might
offer me
the same invitation

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Timothy Moody at The Longer Look shares this quote from Elvis Presley:

Elvis Presley:

“Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?”

– From the song, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” / words and music by Roy Turk & Lou
Handman
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Kathy Flugel Stone sends in this wonderful poem by Derek Walcott: 

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

– DEREK WALCOTT

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Wendy at The Bluebird of Happiness Comes to Tea offers this prayer from Rita Snowden’s A Woman’s Book of Prayers, also posted at Wendy’s Table Tales blog:

Let me show loving care this day in the cleaning of my house, the buying of my stores, the cooking of my meals.
Let me show loving care this day in the tending of my linen, the tidying of my cupboards, the doing of my flowers.
Let me show loving care in the freshness of my person and the neatness and niceness of my clothes.

From the beginning of homemaking in modest tents on the sand, women have served their families, and their guests.
From the beginning of homemaking in simple homes of baked mud, women have whitewashed and scrubbed, and set out their pretty things.
From the beginning of more comfortable houses, with handwoven carpets and furniture of cunnng craftsmanship, women have kept open house.

May Christ be my guest this day.

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T. Gray writes this poem:

Every empty chair
at the table
is waiting
to be filled
by Jesus

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Revabi shares this quote from Karl Kraus(1874 – 1936) :

“One’s need for loneliness is not satisfied if one sits at a table alone. There must be empty chairs as well.”

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Mary Beth Butler writes this poem:

Your chair will always be empty now
that you have left the world
I’ll keep it open for you
Until we meet again.
 

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Rikvah  shares these reflections

I felt just the opposite of most people, it would seem. I thought the empty chair evoked hope. Hope of those who would come to sit, to relax a moment, sip a cup of tea or read a chapter of a book. Even a lone chair can be comforting, especially when you need a moment alone (and as a mother of a three year old, I often do). I sort of imagined the chair wondering who would come and join it, what stories it would overhear. Would the next backside be harsh and boney, or soft and voluptuous? Would they be alone or would someone sit across from them; would they laugh or cry or fight together? You get the idea…

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Deb Vaughn writes this poem: 

Grief sometimes comes in empty chairs
or empty stares
and sometimes whispers
“why weren’t you there?
i needed you…”

Patience sometimes builds with empty chairs
and empty stares
and sometimes we wait
for love to come say,
“thanks… for waiting
and believing in me…”

The loneliness in empty chairs
and empty stares
forgotten dates
and poignant waits
is do-able
bear-able
Yes. It really is…

God’s unseen Body sits across
in that empty chair
and loves
and listens
and waits
until we stop
to hear Him

-Deb Vaughn

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Words of poetry from Singing Owl:

Vacation Day

Sunrise is shining
Across our floor,
Coffee is steaming
In your favorite cup.
Wake up!

Your chair awaits,
Come start the day,
With muffins and me,
Let’s plan, let’s play!
Wake up!

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Lorna at See-Through Faith offers this poem:

waiting
for you to join me
longing
for your presence
why
do you tarry
why
do you pass me by
Here I am
waiting

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Leah at This Far by Faith has also shared some thoughtful reflections:

More than anything, this empty chair reminds me of the fall Saturday two or three years ago I had to go downtown to Border’s to get a copy of Jim Wallis’ book, God’s Politics, because the one I’d bought weeks earlier on eBay hadn’t arrived and I was scheduled to facilitate the discussion of the next chapter at our next FaithOrderWitness – FOW – meeting the next Wednesday. It was a chilly gray raw day, yet friends were happily interacting chatting, eating lunch and drinking chais, lattés and beers at the sidewalk cafés and sidewalk seating sections of indoor cafés. In both my virtual and real lives I’ve told people relatively little about the past dozen or so years because 1) the entire narrative takes hours; and 2) no matter how I try expressing any of it, every single person trivializes it, explains away all of it with a trite and untrue platitude, and manages at least one majorly offensive remark to which responses I could have made include things like: no, I do not remotely “have no education”; no, everyone in the world does not lose every one of the several dozen friends they’d expected to grow old(er) with; no, God does not laugh at our plans, but expects us to make plans and frequently transforms our preparation into something better and wilder than we could’ve imagined; no, I do not need “a pill” (try the full range of SSRI’s and benzodiazepines); no, I do not need “a caring counselor” even being aware that “to reduce costs, a skilled clergyperson often is the best answer.” What I do need is a life related to my many years of school and experience–a life that not just ideally but necessarily will result in new friends and to put it plainly, an adequate professional network. I know, I’ve been complaining about the way the church has become over-clericized and over-professionalized…

This is the style of chair where you find people sitting together in public; it makes me think of casual yet revealing conversations and making plans for the future, of people who’ve recently met and of people who’ve known each other forever. Is there an empty chair at someone’s table for me? Even more to the point, if again I risk inviting someone to fill an empty chair at my table, will they agree, or will this time be like most of the others? Will I ever again have a social life beyond the church events I drag myself to?

A couple years ago I returned home on a Saturday afternoon just as a moving sale in one of the condos here was winding down. The only thing that interested me was a Hallmark ceramic tray in earth tones with a quote from Maya Angelou:

It was a time of such splendor–charming people, good food, laughter, and brave ideas–enough to entertain us for years.

The seller accepted my best offer of $5, and I went home with the prize. I’d been displaying it on the kitchen sideboard, but this morning I’m going to wash it and put it away until charming people, good food, laughter and brave ideas again become part of my world.

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Bette Wappner offers a Haiku– 

a cicada’s trill
swirls through the filigree
iron parlor chair

-b’oki.
(Bette Norcross Wappner)
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Kathryn shares this quote: 

 “You must sit down, said Love,
And taste my meat.
So I did sit and eat”

-George Herbert Love iii
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-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts
(photo taken at a small outdoor cafe on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands in Ireland)

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