Thanksgiving Day



Beyond the steam that gently hung above

the plates of mashed potatoes, yams and corn,

she saw her mother’s face.  The misty veil

could not disguise the sorrow in her eyes

or hide the pain that creased her lips

and set her jaw in rigid, stoic lines.


She whispered, “Mom” and reached to touch

her hand.  “Are you OK?”

……………………………. A tired smile

came slowly in reply, then nothing more.


She took the plate of turkey, passed it through

the steam toward her mother’s empty dish.

She held the offer longer than she thought

she should, then put it down and looked around

the table: all of them were watching her.

Her children looked away.  Her sister wiped

a tear.  Her husband held her gaze – his way,

she knew, to give her strength.  But no one ate.


Her mother said, “It isn’t right,” and turned

toward an empty chair as if to ask

for help remembering the thing that still

was missing – caught herself and shook her head.


She thought she heard her mother sigh, and took

her hand again.  “What is it, Mom?  What’s wrong?”

She drew her breath in hard and asked,

“Is it because he’s gone?”


……………………………. Her mother smiled.

“Oh no – he’s never gone.”  She smiled again

and said,  “He loved this day the best.  And how

he loved this meal!”  She stopped to scan the food

as if to find the thing she thought astray.


She caught her mother’s glance.  “Everything is here.

You’ve made it just the way he liked it, Mom.

Now can we eat?  It is what Dad would want.”


“No, wait!”  Her husband stood and pushed his chair.

“I think I know the missing piece.  Hang on.”

He walked into the living room — a pause –

then came the call:  “The Lions have the ball.”

He sat again and, with a wink, he said,

“The game was always on.  Please pass the rolls.”


Her mother stood and moved toward the door.

She turned, came slowly back, then leaned to kiss

his head.  “I s’pose –” she stopped, then laughed and said,

“you know, I s’pose they’ll lose again this year.”


A porch light on

porch light on

The long, hard road concedes no place for rest,

and cold, dark winds allow no time to pause,

so on, headlong, we plunge toward the west.

The sharp turns, slick with ice, extend their claws

to rake the highway free of we who yearn

too much to see the miles between us fade.

The dreary hours cause sleepy eyes to burn

and weary minds to conjure thoughts half made.

But through the mist you shine, the way torch-

lit towers called the sea-tossed ships to shore,

the way uneasy parents leave the porch

light on to greet their children at the door.

…. Seen through our hearts, you are a beacon bright,

…. a welcome home, a refuge from the night.

Bitter harvest

wisc farm

Too late a spring delayed the corn

that grows in summer’s heat;

too soon a frost has killed the crops

before they’re ripe with meat.

Too late a rain has bogged us down

in sinking, flooded fields;

too soon a gleaning of flesh too moist

has crushed the fragile yield.

Too wet to store, too much to dry

and all the work’s a waste:

The years of empty hope and toil

have left a bitter taste.

But changing fates is not a choice,

and there is no place to roam:

I’ll sow again, I’ll reap again,

because this is our home.