{11•22 gratitudinous}

In 2019, poet Amy Schmidt opined in the “Poets Respond” section of Rattle online that no one could feel lonely when zesting an orange. Today, prepping for my cranberry salsa, I see her orange and raise her lime and ginger.

When the house is filled with the scents of tradition – well-loved meals and old recipes, it is hard not to be kept company by the memories of past holiday. Meals savored and empty platters, empty tables left with a confetti of crumbs, past times with friends, past celebrations and anticipations – and perhaps past hopes and anxieties, too. It’s a little bit crowded in the kitchen just now — swirling as it is with the many ghosts of meals gone by, holidays past, and the aching memories of absent loved ones pressing close to us.

remnants
kneaded into loaves
and simmered through every sauce,
voices long absent
dearly beloved and gathered
a fragrant cloud of witness

Those who are facing a “first Thanksgiving since…” this year, know you are not alone in your loss.

{11•21 gratitudinous}

Autoimmune disorders – or any of the other various disorders of the mind or body which require trying several medications before you find one that works – have a routine. You take the drug, wait out that requisite activation time, sigh, then try the next thing the doctor proffers. I was speaking with a pharmacy nurse about a new drug and was surprised to hear her ask, as we were nearing the end of our talk, “And what will you do if the medication is successful?”

“I’m sorry?” I asked, caught off-guard. “Can you repeat that?”

“What will you do if the medication works, and your symptoms vanish? How will that change your day?”

Ohhhh,” I said, finding my brain empty.

Friends, I didn’t know.

I have been at this for so long I no longer expect the drugs to work. That’s… a pretty big realization.

Upon reflection, however, I found such gratitude for the question – a timely intervention into the same old, same old, medicate, rinse, repeat.

SOMEDAY, this is going to work. SOMEDAY this will not be a part of my life anymore. Someday we WILL kill it. Such thanks for the reminder to hope.

DISEASE
after Vertue, by George Herbert, 1633

This pain,
That stabs with scalding blight,
A fraying rope made up of twisted lies
Pinioning me, knotting as I fight –
          Someday, you’ll die.

Disease duplicitous, I crave
Concealment from your hot, malicious eye,
Knowing that nothing from your grasp can save,
          I pray you’ll die.

This body, strong and weak, opposes
Both health and its reverse, as it supplies
A surge of cells, its will imposes
          On that which someday dies.

Left with a body willed to be whole,
And by that will still grimly combative,
Clawing, enduring to the goal –
          Freed from disease, someday, to live.

{11•20 gratitudinous}

By the end of November, the last of the big academic conferences are over for the year, and Teh Interwebs are full of pictures of meetups and discussions of what went on, and who was there. I’ve never been to NCTE – it’s one of the places it would feel awkward to go, as a non-teaching writer, plus there’s the whole I-didn’t-really-do-it-for-long-enough-to-count imposter syndrome at play. But the photos and reports that come from there tell me that it’s a cherished event that people feel lucky to attend.

It occurs to me how fortunate we are in this era that the average person can pay a fee and attend, joining other smart people in hanging out and celebrating a thing that they love. Our society definitely has 99 million problems, but barring people from attending a conference, as if we were still in Guild days and only certain people by right of nobility had access to the opportunity and education it takes to excel in their chosen field, is fortunately not one of them. So, thanks, for that.

annual conference

full-time
language groupies
exchanging lesson plans
kindled words and hearts ignited
again

{11•19 gratitudinous}

The sun is shining mightily today, after Friday and Saturday were dull and gray with rain. November is so dark and seen as so dreary that whenever the sun shines, it seems like it tries to do it a bit more brightly, just to make up for the inevitable indignities of winter…

11/19
chilly
clear, blue morning
breath, hanging, shivering
clouds holding possibility
of more

11•18 gratitudinous}

It’s strange to realize that I’m old enough for an era to have passed…

When I was really little – almost five – our family moved out of the city to the suburbs, and our new minister was a very kindly, white South African man who always made a fuss over me, pulling my pigtails and demanding to know who I was and what on earth I was doing in his office – the usual weird nonsense adults say to children. Each time we met, he would say he didn’t remember me, or couldn’t possibly say my name, so he would just have to change it. To Jane.

In this year of our lord, 2023, the optics of a white South African man telling a Black child her name is too hard to say, so giving her a simpler name are… quite something. But, in nineteen seventywhat, I was just an amused child, giggling at the newest bit of nonsense an adult handed down to me.

You, Jane

I loved that girl, Jane –
She was simple. Sweet. Pretty.
When she bossed Sally
Or took up with Spot and Dick,
No one mispronounced her,
Misunderstood her, or mistook her
For just an easy read.

{11•17 gratitudinous}

I was nineteen, and a social work friend from work asked anxiously, “Hey, do you have time to fill out a questionnaire? I have a friend doing a project…” So many of us were guinea pigs for each other’s projects in school, I thought this wouldn’t be any different… but it turned out to be The Black Women’s Health Study, and all these years later, I’m still part of Boston University’s massive, multi-year study through the Sloane Epidemiology Center, to predict and provide better health outcomes for black women. So much has been uncovered and discovered, and there’s so much information to come. To that end, I filled a vial with saliva this morning…

All for a good cause, I guess.

genetic divination
science
pulls DNA
and uncertain fortunes
from crystal vials of spit – what
magic!

{11•16 gratitudinous}

It’s ridiculous to have a doctor six hours away, but, it’s …how things ended up. When you find a good specialist, you keep them, and so I used to drive to the other end of the state, make a whole weekend of it, see friends in SoCal and then the doctor Monday morning, and back home. Later I sometimes tried to do the drive in a day – possible, but physically sapping. I turned to flying – there and back on the Southwest Airlines cattle car still took four hours out of my day – and sometimes more, with Southwest’s penchant for overbooking everything and cancelling anything. It was actually a relief when the pandemic meant I couldn’t make time-and-expense consuming, draining journeys anymore. And now I haven’t “seen” my specialist in almost four years… yet I “see” him every month like clockwork, via telehealth. As others have said, isn’t it astounding what suddenly wasn’t too hard, ‘specialized’ or costly for disabled people to have when everyone else needed it? So, thanks for that – for a bridge between the world and the house for those who needed it.

equal=/fair
we wouldn’t do it
just for you
‘it is not our policy’
too much. too expensive.

we couldn’t think it
we, majority
able, and eager
we didn’t need it.

we cannot consider only you.
we serve everyone, everyone:
collective consideration –
so, for accommodation?

all things being equal,
we have to be fair.

{11•15 gratitudinous}

When the pandemic began, I had already started poking around in languages. I took Dutch and French on the Memrise app in 2019, happy to get back in touch with a language I’d already studied, and one of a country dear to me. But I heard about Duolingo, and then the pandemic seemed a good excuse. Now a mere one thousand, eight hundred fourteen days later, I’m still going. Language isn’t easy for me – there are genders, grammar, and numerical systems which just wreck my mind. But, I like giving myself the opportunity to do a hard thing – and maybe fail? So, thanks, for this – the challenge of throwing myself into something I am not typically good at, and doing it anyway.

language

tell me:
a flash of eyes
a shift of the body –
so many ways that I hear you
speaking

{11•14 gratitudinous}

Ah, group texts. I generally loathe them, but the niece, nephews, and younger sibs only communicate that way – email is What The Olds Use. Heh. Because a third of our family is in their teens and twenties, this is how we’re trying making dinner plans for Thanksgiving. To me the tangents and interruptions in group texts make it wholly inefficient for planning anything – but it is hilarious. We cannot accomplish anything without trash talking, and once the poking and teasing begins, it never ends. So, thanks for that – for technology, which makes our collective weirdness just that much more accessible.

family group text
chiming
sweet tones belie
bickering. bluster. snark.
blessed be the ties that bind us
online.