“Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for? Another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now.”
– George Balanchine
Prepare yourself. On Wednesday
Don’t eat much, and work out. Maybe twice.
Remember everybody you invited
May be related, but not be nice.
Just let each one have his way
Then hope for the best. They’ve said
“No politics this year,” and agreed
Not to bring up the sale of the property,
Even aunt B., who one time swore she’d
Shed no tears if you were dead.
And remember uncle E.
Will, without fail, narrate every mile
Of his drive: route numbers, weather, construction,
Until your drink needs ice, so just smile,
Then excuse yourself briefly
And don’t come back. The function
Of this gathering may seem obscure
When grandma is demanding more tomatoes
And your father-in-law says he’s sure
“Those people” sow destruction
Everywhere. And Mike? Who knows?
Off somewhere smoking a joint, no doubt,
While your young nephew walks around on his hands.
Now David has let the new cat out,
Which you must chase. So it goes –
There’s more. But then somehow plans
Come together, somehow you’re seated
Around a groaning table, the TV off,
Wine glasses full, the meal you’ve waited
For and worked for here. Time stands
Still for awkward toasts. “Enough
Already!” somebody says, “Let’s eat!”
And so you do: three salads, cranberry sauce,
Sweet potatoes, turkey, white, dark meat,
Cider, mashers, bread, stuffing
And then, after a slight pause…
Seconds! Football! More wine, then port, pie,
Pumpkin and sour apple, whipped cream, coffee. “Good
God, the boys want more…” “Michael’s still high…”
“Now, about that health care law…”
“Let’s not. We promised…” and thud –
Suddenly it shakes you like thunder:
This chaotic, comic family romance
Is not a problem. It’s a wonder,
An opportunity to thread
Thanksgiving through every chance
Moment if you can just see it right,
Measuring the hour to a gratitude.
For this is all you have, however slight.
Therefore teach reason to dance.
Enjoy, but forget the food.
What will have mattered is the laughter.
What will have mattered is if you can forgive.
That is what might make joy stay later.
That is what can tune this good:
Your free willingness to live
It up, realizing something better
Than what you imagined might come from today.
Thanksgiving: “give” is its begetter.
Everyone is here. Now give, give, give.