Gratitude by Barbara Crooker

This week, the news of the world is bleak, another war
grinding on, and all these friends down with cancer,
or worse, a little something long term that they won’t die of
for twenty or thirty miserable years—
And here I live in a house of weathered brick, where a man
with silver hair still thinks I’m beautiful. How many times
have I forgotten to give thanks? The late day sun shines
through the pink wisteria with its green and white leaves
as if it were stained glass, there’s an old cherry tree
that one lucky Sunday bloomed with a rainbow:
cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, indigo buntings,
and my garden has tiny lettuces just coming up,
so perfect they could make you cry: Green Towers,
Red Sails, Oak Leaf. For this is May, and the whole world
sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s
sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock—
And at least today, all the parts of my body are working,
the sky’s clear as a china bowl, leaves murmur their leafy chatter,
finches percolate along. I’m doodling around this page,
know sorrow’s somewhere beyond the horizon, but still, I’m riffing
on the warm air, the wingbeats of my lungs that can take this all in,
flush the heart’s red peony, then send it back without effort or thought.
And the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands
in gratitude, bend to the sky.

Gratitude

Here we have another take on ‘living with the news’ which I am quite enjoying in this still chilly month of May. It’s a simple enough message – let’s be grateful for all we have, and yet expressed with a poet’s heart, it has so much more to it.

How many times have I forgotten to give thanks? despite the wars, the illnesses. Do we not all forget too often? And then she reminds us of things we might appreciate: a solid house, someone who loves you, the stained glass of wisteria, the cherry tree with its rainbow of birds, tiny, perfect garden lettuces (too early here but something I look forward to).

For this is May, and the whole world / sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s / sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock— now there is an auditory, visual, gustatory image to awaken your body awareness! Can you relate to the idea that at least today, all the parts of my body are working?, working even with our aches and stiffness. With the clear sky, leaves murmuring , finches percolating, she knows, as we all do, that sorrow’s somewhere beyond the horizon. Yet she is riffing on the warm air, the effortlessness of breath, the wingbeats of lungs, the heart’s red peony – I mean, have you ever thought of your lungs as having wings, your heart as a gorgeous red peony??

Finally, the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands in gratitude, bend to the sky. By the time I get here, I’m swooning with appreciation for all this and more. I know there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how grim the news and this poem helps me to remember through these vivid, artful images.  This is one of the reasons why poetry is important to me – may it be so for you too. And may you, too, bow to the sky.

12 thoughts on “Gratitude by Barbara Crooker

  1. Oh Jan – what a perfect poem for me this morning! Amid the wretchedness of the world, beauty thrives and brings us the grace of joy. It reminds me of another poem that I think of as ‘your’ poem – Jack Gilbert’s “Brief for the Defense” and its line “We must risk delight…” Thank you! Love – Mary Lou

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  2. What a beautiful poem and commentary Janice. I am grateful to you, for pointing out the poems along the rocky way, and for taking the time to distill their insights and beauty. A deep bow to you.

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  3. Thank you Jan… a very inspiring poem…

    I admit to finding the sentence about “the man with silver hair who still finds me beautiful” painful, I am comforted by the thought, indeed the knowing, that if André were alive, he would see me as such…and if he is a spirit…he does see me as such…

    I do my best to cultivate gratitude for all the rest…and there is so much…

    Warmly,

    f

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  4. I just adore your blog, Janice. I think I found it by googling one of the poems you wrote about; and I am so grateful that this crazy thing called the internet allows such a gift to be shared out to total strangers. Please know that you are making a difference and your voice is finding its way into hearts in Maine.

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    • Oh my goodness Annie, I am so grateful to hear from you and to know that you have found the poems. My heart expands to learn that the internet is carrying these wonderful poems around the world. A deep bow of thanks for your encouragement. best, Janice

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  5. Jan, thank you so much for this poem and for your reflection. It makes me realize how heavy I’ve been feeling since February when my SI joint went out and how gratitude seems to have slipped out of my awareness. Even as I read the beautiful poem I feel sad as I realize that. Realize that I’ve been consumed with my own heaviness and not feeling open to life. The line that resonates with me for now is: And the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands in gratitude, bend to the sky.

    I love the image of ‘bending to the sky’ and will hold onto that image until I feel it in my body as I hope it calls me back into connection with gratitude.

    Much gratitude to you and for your gifts. Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

    – Oscar Wilde.

    >

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  6. Yes, this is a reminder of how often I/we forget to notice gratitude. May you listen to the green leaves clapping as you bend to the sky filled with gratitude. love Jan

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