Thanksgiving poetry as prayer

Perhaps no holiday is more universally suited for a good prayer than Thanksgiving.

Oh sure, religious holidays are suited for prayer, but only if you’re religious and you celebrate that particular holiday (Ramadan, for instance, is celebrated with fasting and prayers, but not being a Muslim, I don’t eat less or pray more during that time of year; the same can be said of Easter — prayer is appropriate for a Christian on that day, but a Buddhist could care less).

The very name of Thanksgiving evokes a prayer, however short: “Thanks.” Who or what you’re thanking is up to the prayful. Jesus? God? Perfect Intelligent Gender-Neutral Designer? The turkey? The point is, we thank someone other than ourselves for the bounty before us and a prayer is the perfect way to do so.

So I like a good prayer on Thanksgiving.

I thought about bringing a bit of poetry as prayer to the Thanksgiving table this year, but the best thing I could find among the selected poems of Seamus Heaney (one of the few poetry books I have on my new bookshelf, for which I am grateful) was from “Terminus”:

When they spoke of the prudent squirrel’s hoard
It shone like gifts at the nativity.

When they spoke of the mammon of iniquity
The coins in my pockets reddened like stove-lids.

I was the march drain and the march drain’s banks
Suffering the limit of each claim.

As I imagined sitting around the Thanksgiving table with my 5-year-old nephew, 19-year-old stepson and 98-year-old grandmother, I decided Seamus Heaney would probably be as well received as Natasha Bedingfield: “Drench yourself in words unspoken/Live your life with arms wide open/Today is where your book begins/The rest is still unwritten.”

Perhaps esoteric and abstract aren’t the best approaches on Thanksgiving.

GracesSo I pulled out my trusty “Graces: Prayers and Poems for Everyday Meals and Special Occasions” by June Cotner. I love this compilation for its beautiful, unique and simple prayers. Among her Thanksgiving prayers is “Thanksgiving Blessings” by Helen Latham:

Lord be with us on this day of thanksgiving
Help us make the most of this life we are living
As we are about to partake of this bountiful meal
Let us not forget the needy and the hunger they feel
Help us to show compassion in all that we do
And for all our many blessings we say thank you


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