Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.
It’s not the turkey – though symbols and traditions do foster a sense of continuity. It’s not just the table heaped high with all manner of delicacies – though it’s rare that many are permitted (or permit themselves) an occasion of sheer abundance. All the loved faces gathered together – of course that comes closer to the heart of the matter even if, this Thanksgiving, much of the gathering must be done via Zoom or through memory. To my mind, the great gift of the holiday is how we’re ushered into experiencing gratitude – and that has deep transformative power. Gratitude confirms to the body, to the expansive mind, that what is present is enough. And even enduring the most difficult circumstances: enough.
In Polly Brown’s lovely poem, Peggy has the courage to step away from safety’s embrace and, even facing the prospect of impending loss, she claims a moment of determination, quiet joy, and gratitude. The subject of this poem is Peggy Lawler (1929-1966) – an important figure in the modern dance movement, and a great-hearted woman whose friendship and generosity are things for which Polly is forever thankful. And now, because of this beautiful lyric, so are we. Peggy on the Hill is making its debut in these electronic pages but, I’m happy to say, Polly’s recent collection, Pebble Leaf Feather Knife (Cherry Grove) contains a wealth of finely-crafted, deeply-felt poems like this one. And in keeping with the holiday, let me add that, after nine months of the Red Letter project – after having witnessed the generosity of spirit from poets and readers alike – and even as our country struggles mightily to find its way through our devastating challenges – I can say without hesitation: life is, indeed, more than enough.
Red Letter Poem #35:
The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education. See the full archive of the project at http://artsarlington.org/red-letter-poems/. We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends – in Arlington and beyond – or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘mailing list’.
In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters. To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.
– Steven Ratiner