The Chair

The Chair, Waldheim, Cradle Mountain Tasmania © Leonard Metcalf 2014


The Chair by Douglas Stewart

I knew a man so old he was like an angel,
light so consumed him he glittered as frail as crystal;
And as he lay on his pillow in his white hair
He fixed his blue eyes on an object, and it was a chair.
But was it a chair? It was so strange a shape
He thought he had dragged it over the edge of sleep.
It seemed to waver, it was all hollows and space,
It was hardly there, and yet beyond doubt it was.
See it had legs, one two, yes, three and four,
Rounded and tapered, so delicately set on the floor;
And round the legs ran a rung in a pretty ring
He touched it in thought like a harper touching a string.
Oh it was a chair all right, there was the seat
In its dainty circle, waiting for someone to sit;
How perfectly shaped it was for sitting upon,
Like a saddle on a little horse, but the horse was gone.
And when he thought of all who had sat in that chair,
The beautiful ladies, the children floating in air,
And elephants hauling its timber in misty greenery
And sawmills ringing with their singing machinery,
And the chairs before it, right back to when chairs began
Far in the dim time past Sheraton and Queen Anne,
That lovely procession of chairs, with people sitting
Or about to sit, and smiling and fading and flitting,
How wonderful it was to lie in the universe
Where of all lucky things men had made chairs.
To look at a chair and see it look back at him squarely-
Oh why had he never observed a chair so clearly?
He must own a hundred himself, at rate fifty,
Kitchen and dining and drawing room, one for the baby-
When he got home he would touch them one by one,
He would notice each chair before he dared to sit down;
He wished he had noticed them before, but here they all were
Melting together, merged in this single chair.
It seemed to move, but did it? No, it stayed put,
So lightly touching the floor with each exquisite foot.
What craftsman had made it for him with plane and with chisel
And built it so fine that now it was floating a little
So that alone in a space I twihard it's strange being
Down that long tunnel of light at the end of his seeing-
Oh high in that crystal dazzle shining it stood
Carved upon space, that queue sweet shape of wood,
Far and so clear...I had another old friend
Who said to me once when he knew he was near his end,
"I am not afraid of death, but how will it come?"
And I could have said but embarrassment struck me dumb:
"I knew a man who died without fear or care
In absolute ecstasy, thinking about a chair"


This poem was suggested by my dear friend Sharon. Many thanks.. xx

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