Some Food for Thought

November 24, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


ROBERT PINSKY: It’s striking how completely Thanksgiving is devoted to food. Eating is not just part of the holiday, it is the center of the holiday.

This is not to say that the holiday is trivial or gross: food, of course, can be a powerful emotional force, one of the deepest emotional forces.

That truism gets new power in Mark Strand’s poem, “A Pot Roast.” Though the poem is not about turkey, it’s about pot roast, it gives a proper, seasonal reminder of how meaningful food can be.

Pot roast

I gaze upon the roast,
that is sliced and laid out
on my plate
and over it
I spoon the juices 
of carrot and onion.
And for once I do not regret
The passage of time.

I sit by a window
that looks
on the soot-stained brick of buildings
and do not care that I see
no living thing — not a bird, 
not a branch in bloom, 
not a soul moving
in the rooms
behind the dark panes.
These days when there is little
to love or to praise
one could do worse
than yield
to the power of food.
So I bend

to inhale
the steam that rises
from my plate, and I think
of the first time
I tasted a roast
like this.
It was years ago
in Seabright,
Nova Scotia;
my mother leaned
over my dish and filled it
and when I finished
filled it again.
I remember the gravy,
its odor of garlic and celery,
and sopping it up
with pieces of bread.

And now
I taste it again.
The meat of memory.
The meat of no change.
I raise my fork in praise,
and I eat.

I wish you a comforting and memorable Thanksgiving.