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for the 21st century


Carolyn Emerson

For Judith Chafee 1/10/19

The phantom that lurked in the Opéra de Paris

knew not his father, but remembered his mother
in the melody she sang to him, before her death.

I’m here with my family, in this dinner theatre designed by you:

the exposed ductwork in the lobby’s high ceiling

resembles that in your mother’s home, remarks my daughter.

How congenial the atmosphere in which every seat faces the stage.

Waiters approach the low, wood-topped partitions in front of tables
to deliver delicious meals, and once the lights are out, bars of lighting
that run underneath, glow beneath each table.

The technical part — theatre equipment installed throughout–

Would have been an engaging challenge.

Originally, all linens, flatware and china, were selected

by you, who enjoyed every aspect of entertaining.

Though changed, current selections of paint,

wallpaper and linens remain coordinated, as you’d have wished.

In the dark, I can imagine you here,

taking in your design, accoutrements, the audience,
staff—some who knew you—the production.

How well all works holistically, your influence omnipresent.
I, your daughter, who knows you only through your buildings,
am present. Like the phantom,

I met my aged birthfather — and you were like
a melody we studied, a haunting song.

Carolyn Emerson’s  poems have been published in Poésie-USA, Long Pond Review, Long Island Quarterly, The Long Island Botanical Society Newsletter and in the anthologies  Long Island Sounds (2007-2009), Paumanok: Poetry and Pictures, Paumanok: Interwoven , and Long Island Quarterly Silver. In 2007, she was a semifinalist for the Paumanok Poetry Award. Carolyn has read her poetry at a variety of venues. She organizes poetry workshops at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library.