feels flat when no leaves fall,
when palms stand with all spikes still
proud as the sun sinks blazing into a golden
sea of teeming life dynamic. It’s not
the same. It’s not like this
back home, where crinkled leaves
litter fields thick under thick clouds and thick
boots, where sun feebly trembles wisps of warmth
and dry wood-fire heat blasts from vents
at Grandpa’s old farm house.
We always gathered there,
always in old jeans and sweatshirts, always
chatting through pregame banter and Friday sale bills,
always smelling the roasting fat come drip
by sizzling drip to us. Anticipation
blossomed into feasting: more
potatoes, hand me butter, have some salad.
grab a drumstick, toss the rolls, spread the gravy
far and broad and thick over corn, over
beans, over all the life in moments
of belly laughs and refilled cups
and retreating to the den to groan and glory
as sanctioned gluttons. The nap awaits. Football
rushes, passes, punts unheeded—heavy lids
prevail as always, as always
at Grandpa’s. The late-noon came
and young cousins coaxed us all outside
again this year. We always complained but always
yearned to snag that same worn pigskin
wobbling through the chill air,
smashing through your fogged breath
and slamming into cracking cold hands in time
for one more stumble of a slogging belly up the field. Always
happened this way, and always never ended
till light burned too low to see.
All inside again, round the table
for another round—plenty of fixings all
spread for plenty of hands. Grandma radiant in simple
joy at worn house full of grandkids, kids, and
this day of bliss, of shining teeth, of thank-
ful tears welled in worn eyes when Dad prayed
an earnest prayer saying this was all too good
to taste here on this earth. Goodbyes came hard, dragged
out unwilling throats after rounds of pie, and
rounds of laughter rang sagging walls
of a farmhouse built a hundred
years ago: Grandpa’s great-grandpa’s hands
built this. We’re thankful. It was always well with us. It
isn’t any more.
Grandpa can’t see,
had to sell the farm,
move to small house
on small concrete street
of comfortable homes:
All efficient, all
to be thankful for.
I can’t have Thanksgiving here,
Grandma says, after her
It’s too small.
Today it is
Thanksgiving in Jakarta.
but I have to work
just like any other day
cold lunch in a plastic box.
no one here gets it.
I haven’t seen Thanksgiving with family for four years now.
Four years since it moved.
Then I did.
And now I am sharing
Pad Thai noodles a half-world
away under palms and tropic sun. I say my prayers
of thanks and almost tear
up seeing the glowing orb sink
blazing to the golden sea
and think of all I’m missing
back there. Back when.
I think of feast days under thick sweeps of clouds over Missouri, the old
farmhouse still breathing, still vivid.
Now empty, now cold, now
turning back to the dust of the land from which it rose.
Today I’m thankful for chopsticks
and Pad Thai
and a graceful wife
who gets my Thanksgiving
and my memories
who hugs me and stays silent
in the thanks.