In Praise

I love this poem by Franz Wright. A good one for the first snow of the season.

 

HOMAGE

 

There are a few things I will miss,

a girl with no shirt on

lighting a cigarette

 

and brushing her hair in the mirror;

the sound of a mailbox

opening, somewhere,

 

and closing at two in the morning

of the first snow,

and the words for them.

 

from The Beforelife. Knopf, 2002.

 

As I prepare to close down my computer for a couple of days, and make Concord Grape Pie, then join family outside Boston for a holiday feast, I’m thinking about which poem I will bring to share around the table when we take time to reflect on what we are grateful for, surrounded as we are with so much abundance.

A poem opens the space for contemplation and thoughtful expression in much the same way that prayer does, though it’s more inclusive. We can all listen to a poem, while some will resist a religious offering in this setting.

I’ve pulled together a few favorites, in case you’d find it meaningful to read something at your own Thanksgiving/Indigenous People’s Day table. I’ve also included a rain poem, for friends in California who are facing wildfires and smokey air.

Just click the title of the poem to be taken to reading:

Thanks, by W.S. Merwin
Rain, Kazim Ali
Perhaps the World Ends Here, by Joy Harjo
Thank You, Ross Gay

 

And this one, from one of my favorite poets, Lorine Niedecker:

 

As praiseworthy

The power of breathing (Epictetus)
while we sleep. Add:
to move the parts of the body
without sound

and to float
on a smooth green stream
in a silent boat

 

 

 

I’ve often been the one to suggest that we take a little time to name what we cherish and this poem creates an easy framework for such a conversation. What would you name as praiseworthy? I just made a list and I’m struck by how the most basic things, can feel so necessary and important to well-being; things like:

indoor heat; wool base layers; spiked snow tires; my beloved, Matt; my parents and siblings; candles; meaningful work; my teachers; rugs on cold floors; Kate, with whom I practice every day; political satire; real books; local produce; fresh flowers (even out of season!); hot showers; Edward Steed; flannel sheets; circles of supportive colleagues and friends with whom I’m learning how to live well and make work, despite everything; reading in bed before the day begins; my 9-going-on-10-year-old’s health; Castelvetrano olives; fresh air; letters and postcards; my secondhand winter coat; my upstairs neighbor, Christian, who is just as monastic as we are at this time of year; memories of Stephen, who died three months ago, and way too young; big, open views of undeveloped spaces; Lake Michigan; Elizabeth Warren; the moon; dancing; movies that move me to laughter or tears; Queen; salt; skin; eyesight; the tools that make it possible for me to connect across miles and time-zones; clean drinking water; sun; this moment; and the next. ..

Your turn now. What are you feeling grateful for right now? I know we live in a cynical time when it’s uncool to speak sincerely about what matters to us, but we tend to feel better when we do. Why is that? I think it has to do with reconnecting with substance and value. And maybe speaking truth rather than performing indifference?

I don’t know. I guess I see so much that needs our love and reverence right now, lest it be lost or no longer valued.

 

To notice and to praise is a form of protection and preservation.

 

ANDŌ

 

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