A Thanksgiving Poem

November 23, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: Finally tonight, a thanksgiving holiday reading from the favorite poem series, the project by then-poet laureate Robert Pinsky asking americans to read their favorite poem. Here is Annik Stahl, a technical writer in Seattle.

ANNIK STAHL: Every year since about, I would say, 1989, I write out a copy of this poem and I put it up somewhere near the Thanksgiving table. If it’s at my house or at somebody else’s house or… I’ve always brought it with me.

You might not think it’s a Thanksgiving appropriate poem, but I think it is because it’s really about the people and the angels and the animals and God coming together. And our relationship with God and how we might have fallen out of favor. There’s still a lot of beauty in it.

And I think the poet really brings that out at the end, you get to see that… I mean, you get to see a God that is really whimsical and somebody that wants to be understood, you know, not just a guy in a long robe, you know, wielding his power because He can. I mean He really, you know, it’s like He has human qualities or we have godly qualities. It’s really…

It’s a very synergistic poem. It combines nature, evolution, and the spiritual religious part of that whole Adam and Eve story. And I think a lot of the feelings and emotions in it are very applicable to everyday life.

ANNIK STAHL: “Lamentations” by Louise Gluck.

1. The Logos

They were both still,
the woman mournful, the man
branching into her body.

But God was watching.
They felt his gold eye
projecting flowers on the landscape.

Who knew what He wanted?
He was God, and a monster.
So they waited. And the world
filled with His radiance,
as though He wanted to be understood.

Far away, in the void that He had shaped,
he turned to his angels.

2. Nocturne

A forest rose from the earth.
O pitiful, so needing
God’s furious love—

Together they were beasts.
They lay in the fixed
dusk of His negligence;
from the hills, wolves came, mechanically
drawn to their human warmth,
their panic.

Then the angels saw
how He divided them:
the man, the woman, and the woman’s body.

Above the churned reeds, the leaves let go
a slow moan of silver.

3. The Covenant

Out of fear, they built a dwelling place.
But a child grew between them
as they slept, as they tried
to feed themselves.

They set it on a pile of leaves,
the small discarded body
wrapped in the clean skin
of an animal. Against the black sky
they saw the massive argument of light.

Sometimes it woke. As it reached its hands
they understood they were the mother and father,
there was no authority above them.

4. The Clearing

Gradually, over many years,
the fur disappeared from their bodies
until they stood in the bright light
strange to one another.
Nothing was as before.
Their hands trembled, seeking
the familiar.

Nor could they keep their eyes
from the white flesh
on which wounds would show clearly
like words on a page.

And from the meaningless browns and greens
at last God arose, His great shadow
darkening the sleeping bodies of His children,
and leapt into heaven.

How beautiful it must have been,
the earth, that first time
seen from the air.