Poetically Yours Ep. 17 - Rockford's First Poet Laureate Remembers Thanksgiving

Nov 26, 2020

Welcome to WNIJ’s Thanksgiving week Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week’s poem is by Rockford’s first ever poet laureate Christine Swanberg.

Rockford's poet laureate Christine Swanberg.
Credit Provided by Christine Swanberg.

Swanberg’s published works span over several decades. Her writing has appeared in many anthologies and journals like Beloit Poetry Journal, Louisville Review, Spoon River and Earth Blessings.

Swanberg has also written several books. A couple include Invisible String published in 1990 and Wild Fruition: Sonnets, Spells, and Other Incantations, in 2017.

In addition to her many published works, Swanberg is a recipient of Rockford Area Arts Council grants, the Mayor’s Award for Community Impact, YWCA’s Award for the Arts and many other accolades.
Swanberg is retired but spent most of her career as a teacher. She’s taught Creative Writing, Speech, English and Communications. Over the years, Swanberg shared her talents by mentoring several successful writers. She’s honoring Thanksgiving with her poem “This Thanksgiving, Remember.”

Remember the air that made the clouds that made the rain
that watered the ground and made the potatoes
both white and sweet at your Thanksgiving table.

Remember the birds that gave the eggs that gave the meat
that baked in the oven and smelled divine
surrounded by sage dressing at your Thanksgiving table.

Remember the sun that fed the vines that made the wine
that went into long-stemmed glasses and shimmered
near the candles at your Thanksgiving table.

Remember the miners who culled the silver and the fire
that molded the precious metal that became a spoon
so perfectly set around your Thanksgiving table.

Remember the migrants who picked the lemons that you slice in water with ice, and who carried the pumpkins that whipped into the pie at your Thanksgiving table.

Remember the cows for all their kindnesses: the cream,
the milk, the cheese, and the chocolate that finished
the meal at your Thanksgiving table. Dare not forget:

All pilgrims who seek the higher life in strange
and wonderful places. All the invisible faces
of those gone on, the homeless, and the struggling,
our blue planet that most special place in the universe,
where we the lucky thrive amidst rivers and orchards
where fruit hangs in perfect abundant globes.

First published in OUT OF LINE. Also published in
THE ALLELUIA TREE, Puddin’head Press.


WNIJ would like to share a few more Thanksgiving poems by other Poetically Yours poets. They include poems by Carolyn Grune “Virtual Thanksgiving – A Poem for Our Time,” William Ordway “Pumpkin Pie,” Cindy Guentherman "Thanksgiving," and Susan Goldberg “Giving Thanks.”

Virtual Thanksgiving – A Poem for Our Time

Over the virtual river and through the video woods,
To grandmother’s house we zoom.
The net knows the way to stream us today
As we sit in our quarantined room.

Over the river and through h the woods
On the Internet highway
We’re sadder but wiser with hand sanitizer
And buckets of Lysol spray.

We’re going the distance! Six feet! No resistance!
To grandmother house we go
She’s wearing a mask, behind Plexiglas
In the white and drifted snow.

With an Internet tutor, she starts her computer
Now grandmother’s image we spy.
In pajamas with glitter, she messaged on Twitter
While baking her own pumpkin pie.

“Oh, grandmother dear! Can you see us? We’re here!”
We’re waving so hard at the screen.
“Touch the button called mute. Don’t the kiddies look cute?
“I’ve got it; I know what you mean!”

First there’s the blessing – no fussing – no stressing
We open our hot TV dinners.
Of taters and turkey, or whiskey and jerky,
Granny believes we’re all winners.

So let’s make a toast to friends coast to coast:
“To your good health far and near!”
Now our only shot is the one we’ve got
That we toss with our bottle of beer.

The day now is done, and we’ve had lots of fun,
In spite of the way we’ve been living.
We’ve logged off with cheer saying maybe next year,
We’ll have a real Thanksgiving!
 

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving, A time to be thankful

For the bounty life brings
Shouldn’t we also include little events
A dog in your lap or birds on the wing

A banquet, why not
Food, treats all have their place
But I also include youthful
Smiling faces in my grace

As we gather, we get
In each other’s way
That’s good! as it is nice to be close
If only for a day

Warm Greetings, Great to see you: I’m excited by what you brought
But know you are part of my everyday thought
Everyday thoughts, everyday living
It’s what calls us together to celebrate this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

The day opened like an egg – that is,

the opaque dawn lifted
and then the splash of yellow
She took it for an omen

because though she could see her breath
there was no snow;

because she had two warm blankets
to wrap the baby in
when she carried him the two blocks
to the babysitter;

because the bus was on time
and she found a seat by the heater;

because she was early for her shift
and the owner nodded approvingly;

because the coffee was strong and hot
and nothing spilled or broke;
 
because everything her hands offered
was accepted with a smile;

because she could see her tips add up
inside the Visa cards;
 
because on her way out
the cook handed her a turkey sandwich

tightly wrapped in foil;

because when she stepped off the bus
the dark wrapped around her like a hug
and one bright star winked at her
and now the whole night was hers
and it would be good

Giving Thanks

Write with your heart
Sing from your heart
Sing with heart
Regard the world with kindness
The river is a great teacher whose unending shades of blue and green melt together into one
More beautiful together than alone
Look back at the river
If there be such beauty is it not for me to enjoy?
Is it not for me to relish to admire, to draw strength from?
What a pleasure to feel enough
To have to blink back tears at the sight of the river at midday
The blue and green and golden colors
Brilliant in hue
The soulful music filling this vast and glorious space