Here is a Thanksgiving poem. It appeared in Caprice in 2000, but of course, I wrote it several years before that.
I've often been accused of writing poetry that's "prose-y," and this poem does seem to fall into that category. Still, it's the only Thanksgiving poem I have that's been published, and I want to be careful about putting unpublished work on this blog, since I'd like for poems to appear somewhere else before they appear here (and then, ideally, the best of them would appear later, in a book with a spine--I'm old-fashioned that way).
This poem is so old that I don't even have it typed into my current computer. So, as I type it in, I'm going to resist the urge to revise.
And yes, this poem represents Thanksgiving as I perceived it as a young woman visiting my rural relatives. I wrote it my first Thanksgiving in south Florida, when I was desperately homesick for them.
Anyway, enough prelude. Here it is:
Surely, they've all earned a rest.
But they're a daughterless bunch,
so they'll put together the annual feast,
even though the youngest is fifty-eight.
They've already chosen the turkey, slaughtered
and plucked it, plopped it in the fridge
as if it defrosted like a normal grocery
store turkey. They've planned the menu,
delegated the tasks, prepared as much in advance
Still, they roll out of bed at 4:30 in the morning,
pad to the cold kitchen, turn on the oven
and burners (something to be thankful
for right there--they all remember
when part of the task involved hauling
kindling and logs to the cast-iron stove).
They set the dough to warm and rise,
roll out rounds of pastry,
keep the bubbling pots controlled.
They meet at Mae Mae's house.
She has the biggest kichen
and two television sets so the men won't argue
about which game to watch. The women reheat,
arrange spectacular presentations,
and set out all necessary utensils.
The family gathers in the dust-free dining
room for the blessing.
The oldest male blesses
the food and just like every year, forgets
to bless the hands that made the meal,
gives thanks for a good growing season
and forgets to give thanks for the growers.
The men, drunk on sweet tea and football hormones,
keep the glasses filled.
Occasionally an outside male--
always younger, always well-intentioned--
tries to help in the kitchen.
Like pecking hens, the women drive him away.
Everyone eats enough to keep a third world child
alive for a year; between all the family appetites,
they consume food that could have kept a whole village
Finally the clean up begins, food wrapped
in plastic, tucked away in corners
of the fridge and freezer, divided
between the families. The heirloom china
and silver receive their ritual washing.
The older children help put the pots and pans
away. The women restore order
to the kitchen.
At halftime, the men creep
back to the kitchen to exchange
tales of the past--the relatives a few generations
back who were so poor
they didn't even have an outhouse,
just did their business in the woods;
the great grandmother who insisted
on clean drawers before going to the emergency
room for her heart attack;
the vegetarian kook who tried to convince
them to switch to soybeans.
Gradually, the meal makes an encore
performance. The family picks and putters
amongst the leftovers as dusk descends
on another holiday,
another burnished bouquet of memories.
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