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Once Upon a Time
Joan Kantor


At  the old Wanamaker's Department Store,
now Macys, in downtown Philadelphia

To little girls who once sat on Santa's lap
and giddily shopped for the first day of school,
Wanamaker's seemed more palace
than store,
but it's now just another declining Macy's.

Though its enormous gilded ceiling
still rises high
above wraparound balconies and a marble floor,
the upper third of the building sits empty,
the once attentive staff
are nowhere to be found,
tables overflow  
with tossed sweaters and pants,
escalators are in disrepair,
carpets are covered in dust,

but six days a week,
at noon and 5:30 sharp,
the majesty returns,
when a musician sits down,
then slowly,
places his fingers on the keyboard
of the largest organ in the world*,
and the towering gold pipes,
on the mezzanine
above The Grand Court,
come resoundingly alive,
forcefully pumping familiar tunes
and classical music
throughout the cavernous space,
pushing sadness aside,
filling elderly little girls
with memories of magic.

© by Joan Kantor.
Used here with the author's permission.

*The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ is the largest fully functioning pipe organ in the world.


Joan Kantor lives with her husband in Collinsville, Connecticut.  A college counselor and learning disabilities specialist for many years, Joan also has training in education and marriage and family therapy. Active in a number of poetry outreach efforts, she is a member of the International Academy for Poetry Therapy and collaborates with both visual artists and musicians in Stringing Words Together, an interactive program of poetry and violin music. Her most recent book is Filling in the Black: One Woman's Journey of Re-education (WovenWord Press).





Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
Great portrayal of the contrast between what was and what is and perfect ending.
Posted 12/13/2023 01:29 PM
Love everything about your poem, Joan!
Posted 12/13/2023 09:59 AM
Also loved their Christmas windows! I am forwarding this to my 75 year old little sister! Thank you!
Posted 12/13/2023 09:26 AM
And we fortunate souls can also see and hear the Wanamaker thanks to the internet and YouTube!
Posted 12/13/2023 08:34 AM
Great fun.
Posted 12/13/2023 08:11 AM
Joan Luther:
Elderly little it!
Posted 12/13/2023 08:08 AM
Larry Schug:
"but"--what a word! It takes the poem down a different path and changes the reader. This poem is so visual and contains the magic ingredient,texture.
Posted 12/13/2023 08:03 AM
ahh, this elderly little girl absolutely felt the magic happen while reading your poem today🎄💕thank you Joan
Posted 12/13/2023 06:32 AM

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