She sells Birkenstocks and books
and biscotti, and products by Bodum
and Burt’s Bees, also Fair Trade Coffee
and Catawissa sodas and Chai. Still, the best
offering of Phillips Emporium is none of these—
but owner Helena’s open generosity.
An artist whose genre is coziness, she opens
her warm heart with a smile and easy chatter—
offering her space and connecting you.
Sure, I could knock the place—
a sofa has a broken spring,
the bathroom shivers in winter—
but what would be the point
to set an inch of annoyance
against a mile of praise?
Now in the state of
I see clearly where the Heart
Beneath a round green awning
enter a double door. Pause
by a Bulletin Board that illuminates
the community with flyers for yoga
and babysitters and The Vagina Monologues,
for high school musicals, ArtSpace receptions,
and BTE show-times, for local rock bands.
School fundraisers and Quit Smoking
clinics and apartments for rent.
Spectrum and Big Dog and adoptable pets,
dancing or guitar lessons, drum circle,
Five and Dime Cultural Center. Come inside
to the espresso machine where fresh baked
brownies can be purchased on purple plates
and mingle aromas with coffee in Fiesta Ware
cups of aqua or orange or chartreuse. Art
hangs on the walls, for sale without commission,
surrounding book discussions or games of chess
or River Poets’ readings, Italian lessons,
or belly dancing class, a film or a discussion
about The Power of Myth.
On the yellow sofa a woman rewrites
her novel; onstage Compassion Moves
and a list of young bands (Still Life
Decay, Sulfonic, Killing Chapel . . .),
play to root beer drinkers
keeping time in a smoke-free room
Green Walls,?? I said, some years ago.
the walls green? It will be dark, I said.
It will be warm, she countered.
And later a Feng Shui expert
from Catawissa said the bathroom
in the money corner of the building
was draining the business.
But no naysayer convinced
to alter her welcome to artists
and musicians and poets
and to those rest of us
who hang out and hang on.
No prize, no trophy, no star shines in its place
as bright as
Her good deeds spread wide, her profile
modestly low. But we are on to her,
Helena Griffith, empress
of Phillips Emporium, of Bloomsburg,
Silver Spring MD October 2006