Perhaps I should post a more spiritual poem. This blog is my theology blog after all. I should write a poem about gratitude and God and great feasts.
But Thanksgiving suggests a different kind of spiritual heritage to me. For many years, we went back to my grandfather's homeplace, where his relatives were still farming on a small scale. We ate a turkey that had been scratching in the yard very recently. We ate vegetables grown in the fields outside the door. We talked about our ancestors.
I learned about my great grandmother who was picking beans when she had a heart attack. She made the men wait to take her to the hospital until she could change into clean underwear.
Of course, I learned more than just funny stories. I learned about how people survived hard times and how they celebrated bounty. I learned about a quiet spirituality (of a Lutheran variety) that formed the backbone of my family. I learned about tables that were full of enough food to share with the family members who didn't have as much to contribute--for many starving student years, my husband and I would go to the feast with a meager loaf of pumpkin bread, and we'd leave with enough food for a week--and a Christmas tree cut from the fields!
So, here's a poem that celebrates that heritage. It was first published a year ago in Big Muddy.
Finally, I am with my own kinsfolk.
I do not feel a freak of nature anymore.
Here beneath this hook
where my great grandfather butchered hogs and deer,
I stare into faces familiar to me.
My future face.
I have the strong, solid body
which doesn’t belong to this age
of computers and office politics.
I was meant to be up at half a crack of dawn,
fixing a huge breakfast
before I plowed a field and put an addition on the house.
All in a day’s work.
The strength of my people lies
buried in my bones and brain,
a genetic code impossible
to diet or exercise away.
My hips would balance a baby
while I shaped bread dough and slaughtered chickens,
if only I would comply.
But I’ll submit to my genetic destiny on some level.
I will always awaken before sunrise,
always keep an eye to the sky,
track the weather like a second religion.
I’ll cook enough food for a small third world country
and share my good fortune with others.
I’ll tell the family stories
about strong women
with indomitable wills.
feeling the feelings…
5 months ago