'What if I just sat there? she asks. It's a free country, I tell her'

entry picture

One of the many challenges in life is in knowing where you're supposed to sit. I slid into the wrong pew at a funeral 40 years ago and still smart from the hard looks I got. Here's a church pew poem by Bruce Pemberton, who lives in Palouse, Washington. It's from the literary journal Third Wednesday.




by Bruce Pemberton 

There’s coffee and pie
with a widow from the church.
Why do you sit
in the back pew? she asks.
I’m close enough, I say.
Can I sit back there with you?
I’ve always sat there, I tell her,
with my same two friends,
and their clicking oxygen pumps.
One sat next to me for years,
called herself my church girlfriend,
who metastasized, telling me she was
tired of waiting to die.
Now, there’s just my 88-year-old friend,
his pump echoing in the sanctuary,
and there’s that empty
space between us.
I’d like to invite the widow to sit there,
but I miss my dead friend’s laugh,
her loving stories about her husband,
and how we were always
glad to see one another.
I tell the widow all this.
What if I just sat there? she asks.
It’s a free country, I tell her,
and she smiles.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Bruce Pemberton, 'Autumn 2017,' from Third Wednesday,(Vol. XI, no. 2, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Bruce Pemberton and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.

◄ Write Out Loud Wigan at the Old Courts tonight

Alice in Winterland: Julie Egdell, Smokestack ►


Profile image

M.C. Newberry

Thu 14th Mar 2019 00:28

More enjoyment from this ever-reliable source - on a theme which
could be awkward with less sympathy employed in its touching reality.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message