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Thanksgiving  Dinner Thanksgiving Dinner
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2014-01-17 13:09:28
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Pennsylvania woods.
A grey day, in season.
Grey winds blow with mastery.
On the ground, in the clearings,
Mottled browns on brown.
Snow has powdered the wet leaves, the dead land.
The smells of autumn have fled.
The earth has been stripped of birdsong.

All the more, then, in this dusk of seasons …
All the more is the worth of this fire in the fireplace,
Crackling against the cold and the whistle in the chimney.
This gathering at the hearth is where light will dispel the dark,
Where the warmth of company and the food ever so slowly gather.
It's a time of inward turning.  All the more, then,
Am I lonely for my own here in this refuge, this house of friends and cheer.

This home is so well-thought-ahead,
So benign, with everything arranged just so,
Everything fitting in with everything,
The shams matching the curtains, and the baseboards the doors.
Even the soup ladle, by God, feels just right to the hand
Though it is not bone, not wood, not metal.
Even plastic things can be tradition in this well-appointed, well-lived-in house.

The home is a huddle of good feeling.
The women of the house are jolly, with ever so much to do.
The men are relaxed, appreciative, and the talk they make benign.
As folks arrive they comment on the air inside and the air outside.
This is a time to turn aside from troubles and toils.
In the calming circle of pulsing light, they all warm up
To their own expectations, and slide into easeful and warming things to say.

This place, where everyone and everything has its place, is not my place.
I am in exile.

 

II

The family has gathered itself, and in the throbs of firelight
It encloses itself against the outside cold.
Dinner is set; banter rises; members are seated one by one.
In the golden circle each is present to all.
Their faces all glow and reflect one another like copper pots,
The reflections saying: "this is us, we are such."
Each has a place and a part to play.
They tell me in charity that here there is a place for me.
But how could that be?

Astride the border of past and future the family celebrates itself
And carries itself forward with ceremonies of remembrance and renewal.
The purposive dinner is slowly consumed, with oohs and aahs from all.
Warm hearts and warm wines confer solidarity
Against what is outside the windowpanes.
Gold is the turkey, gold is the wine,
And golden the crust of the just-baked bread.
The overhanging lamp sprinkles diamond light on all and
The uses of the glasses and the ladles and knives and forks
Sound like bells.  In the general glow,
In the well-meaning home, one is struck by the well-meaning generosity.

Through the windows I barely see the browns and tans of the season,
The black bark and the chilly damp feel —
But the kindness of these strangers, having taken me in,
Their warm plenitude, cannot drive away my ghosts.

Speaking of ghosts, the speeches render up the family ghosts.
It is the universal resurrection of entombed memories, saved up for just this day.
The telling of the stories is the thing.
Hale mention of spirits who have unspooled their thread of time.
Pious memories that instruct, or humorous bits that arouse a spark in the eye.
Defeats and sorrows are forgotten for the sake of smooth amusement.
Those who had a part to play in the originals hold forth again,
Play them again, and will do so until they die.

Sad to say, these ghosts are not my ghosts.
I am in exile here.

 

III

These kind folk would comfort me, would have me forget,
But the windowpanes now show me a honeygold child, a ghost of my own.

Oh, circle-eyed child who believes everything, and listens for my voice,
You are more real to me than the rest of the world combined.
It is you in the windowpane, little ghost, with your tell-tale foggy voice,
It is you.
Yes, we two are ghosts, glowing in the heart, hidden away, as far apart as
The earth and the moon, as silent as the missing birdsong,
But bending toward one another, anxious to share everything with one another.
Our union is unseen by the others, but like the fog we move silently
Past every obstacle, through every medium, hovering glowing gollywogs,
Invisible, indivisible …

I am bursting to run from here screaming
To go to where you are, and with you run and hide from all constraints —
Just be with you and forge the rest —
But they would come for me and take you away
And the end would just be the beginning again.

 

IV

It feels loneliest now, in this darkling of seasons.
Mid this family not my family, Thanksgiving my mourning.
I am not with you, and mourn my aborted family,
Which floats in all directions, a broken unreality.
Such shards, such detritus of the broken past, neither anchors nor sustains.

The long-dead poet described me well: "a single swimmer in a waste of waves."
From exile here I sing to you, son, my pillar of light in a blighted world.
Leaping over wrongful judgments, and hypocrisy, and evil unconcern
I pledge to you: hope, and care, and a presence that can never be erased
By the hand of man.

 

V

Your pure little heart is the beating anchor that sustains me.
Each night I dream fantastic reconciliations with you.
I dream that my laughter will reach you, so far away.
I dream of a perfect reunion with you, my perfect child,
And I am not yet dead.
Driven by instinct, the desire that can never cease,
I will not quit until I give you a Chagall bent-neck, front-face kiss.
And then my loyalty and your loyalty shall give such a roar!

Oh, then you shall see a Thanksgiving to excite the soul!
On that day we will leave behind all lies, and sorrow, and restraint, and shame.
On that day we shall give such thanks!
We’ll devour so much we'll near to burst,
Finally together, finally at home, worthy of one another,
In a curing circle of light that also saves, and abides,
And never dims.

 


     
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