I know I’ve put up Thanksgiving poems before, and I know I’ve told you it’s my favorite holiday. Was, I must learn to say. It is our quintessential American holiday, not tethered to any religious or historical festival; once having cancelled it, we will never get it back. Who needs it? It was always just a celebration of colonialism and genocide anyway.
In any event, mine will be drastically curtailed this year, with one family contingent of my longtime regular guests, one of whom has underlying health issues, having indicated, timidly, beseechingly, that they would only feel safe if we all quarantined for 2 weeks before 11/26 and got a Sinos’ Infection test which came back negative before the feast.
No can do. The week before the 3-4 day house party which is (was) Thanksgiving, i am out and about on myriad shopping trips. I cannot orchestrate and provision it remotely. I reckon I’ve made it look easy all these years, but it is a big, necessarily peripatetic undertaking although the burden is light because: love.
Then there are the other attendees and helpers whose pre- feast exposures I cannot control . Nuh uh, I cannot guarantee a sterile environment. To our respective adult children (oxymoron alert!) I’m getting the feeling I’m lookin’ like some illiterate Ol’ babushka who insists on decorating her Christmas tree with real wax candles. Fitting coda to this absolute shi—-uh, manure matinée—that IS 2020.
If Thanksgiving….1950 is not Edna St Vincent Millay’s last poem, it’s close. She wrote it in September 1950, sent it off to The Saturday Evening Post, and died in October 1950 by pitching headfirst downstairs. I was going to recite parts of it this year; I always recite some poetry when I make my toast. (RecitED.) This woulda been so perfect! (I can’t figger out though, what “attack” on our country had occurred in late 1950 ..the Korean War, mebbe?). I hope you’ll read the entire poem, just search her name and the title, you’ll find it. And for sure, this will be the last poem I will be posting in our doomed Mischief . (Ok not for sure, but probably.)
“Hard, hard it is this anxious Autumn/To lift the heavy mind from its dark forebodings/To sit at this bright feast, and with ruddy cheer/Give thanks for the harvest of a troubled year.”
[Oh, dear Edna—you have NO idea…]
“Ah, but is it right to feast in a time so solemn?/Should we not, rather, fast, and give the day to prayer?
Prayer, yes, but fasting, no. Soldier and citizen alike, we are a marching column./ And how long the march may be, and over what terrain/We fo not know./Nor how much of hardship, and hunger, how much of pain/We may be called on to endure. And fortitude/Takes muscle, and needs food.”
And here’s a part which would have been perfectly apt for this year when we face a generational political divide:
”Never more dear than in a thoughtful hour like this/Are the faces about the table;each stands out/More sharply, and is looked at with a longer glance./And smiles are deep, from behind the eyes, and somewhat quizzical/Lest they go too far in tenderness .”
[Tru dat, my sister, my bard! ]
”God bless the harvest of this haggard year!/Pity our hearts, that did so long for peace,/Deal with us kindly; there are many here/ Who love their fellow man, and may their tribe increase—/But cunning and guile persist, ferocity empowers/ The lifted arm of the aggressor: the times are bad./ Let us give thanks for the courage that was always ours/And pray for the wisdom which we never had.”
There follow other inspiring lines about our country’s defense, that stanza concluding:
“Strength we have, and courage; an acetylene will;/ A timorous vigilance, but a brave pride.”
[Oh, if only that is still true! ‘Timorous vigilance”, definitely..but “acetylene will”? Here’s hoping…oh but BTW, how perfect, how poetically brilliant, bright as a blowtorch! is her use of “acetylene “!!]
The final lines:
“From the apprehensive present, from a future packed/With unknown dangers, monstrous, terrible and new—/ Let us turn for comfort to this simple fact:
We have been in trouble before……and we came through.”
[So mote it be.]