Thanksgiving … 1950

Painting by Allan Sallburg

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Hard, hard it is, this anxious autumn,
To lift the heavy mind from its dark forebodings;
To sit at the bright feast, and with ruddy cheer
Give thanks for the harvest of a troubled year.

The clouds move and shift, withdraw to new positions on the hills;
The sky above us is a thinning haze—a patch of blue appears—
We yearn toward the blue sky as toward the healing of all our ills;
But the storm has not gone over; the clouds come back;
The blue sky turns black;
And the muttering thunder suddenly crashes close, and once again
Flashes of lightening startle the rattling windowpane;
Then once more pours and splashes down the cold, discouraging rain.

Ah, but is it right to feast in a time so solemn?
Should we not, rather, feast—and give the day to prayer?

Prayer, yes; but fasting, no.
Soldier and citizen alike, we are a marching column,
And how long the march may be, and over what terrain
We do not know;
Nor how much hardship, and hunger, how much of pain
We may be called upon to endure. And fortitude
Takes muscle; and needs food.

Never more dear than in a thoughtful hour like this
Are the faces about the table: each stands out
More sharply than before, and is looked at with a longer glance.
And smiles are deep, from behind the eyes, and somewhat quizzical,
Lest they go too far in tenderness.

God bless the harvest of this haggard year;
Pity our hearts, that did so long for Peace;
Deal with us kindly: there are many here
Who love their fellow man (and may their tribe increase).
But cunning and guile persist; ferocity empowers
The lifted arm of the aggressor: the times are bad.
Let us give thanks for the courage that was always ours;
And pray for the wisdom which we never had.

This is nothing new—that we should be attacked
While we are napping: is it not always so?—
And, dazed and unprepared, start up to act,
Rubbing our eyes, not knowing where to go?

Yet the trained hand does not forget its skill;
Nor can we lay precision and speed aside:
Strength we have, and courage; an acetylene will;
A timorous vigilance; but a brave pride.

From the apprehensive present, from a future packed
With unknown dangers, monstrous, terrible and new—
Let us turn for comfort to this simple fact:
We have been in trouble before . . . and we came through.

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