This collection reflects an effort to revive the tradition of thoughtful reflection and contemplation of our role and responsibilities in today's troubling and often violent world. Written year by year over the decades, each "grace" speaks to a moment in our nation's passage through many elections, crises, disasters, and even triumphs. High moral purpose is balanced by a spirit of playfulness and an appreciation of the myriad beauties of our planet and universe. These graces have been shared at tables around the world for over three decades. Enjoy them and catch glimpses of our collective life as we moved from the twentieth to the twenty-first centuries.
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About the Author
David Kessler, coauthor, with Elisabeth KÜbler-Ross, of Life Lessons and On Grief and Grieving, has helped thousands face death with peace, dignity, and courage, including the late Anthony Perkins and Michael Landon. His services have been used by Elizabeth Taylor, Carrie Fisher, and Marianne Williamson when their loved ones faced death. He lives in Los Angeles.
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As Close to Grace as I Dare Venture
By David Kessler
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 David Kessler
All rights reserved.
Pilgrims faring forth, thus we launched the plot.
Frankly, since then, things haven't gone so hot.
High intent, courage, moral purpose, these seem out of place
one might almost conclude the nations skidded out of grace.
Vote and tally taken, once again, a nebbish at the helm
Senor Deficit, all façade, he would MaGog o'whelm.
With moans and sighs, cheap groans and bitter tears,
A patient Jeremiah might go on for years.
But as the bark comes clear the reef
So let our hunger push us past this grief.
Let's spin some joy, even if pure fable
And then attack this groaning table.
If pity stares from every human hand—
Do we still not have the land?
Thanks to the hand that does imbue
the rolling hills with morning dew,
the gentle rain, the verdant green,
sweet sunset on the bay serene.
Even those condemned to ice and snow
can gather round the fireside glow.
Are not the roots of Human Love so strong
to crack the shell of hate before too long?
May this poor bird, who's offered up his all
awake within us that deepest human call.
Let us give thanks, for what we'll someday see
A world at peace, all peoples well, fruit of love's great tree.
The bird that eyes us from yon platter
might well explain just what does matter
whether one's fate lies in one's hands
or if secretions of the glands
decide who rules, where fall the chips
and sometimes launch a thousand ships
Who thinks himself master of the feast
proves in this light a perfect beast.
To cringe in peace or roast in war
the world's no roost to crow secure
the vault of time might crack tonight
O God! The Giants in Denver might alight.
But, lest we torture our nodding brains
with incalculable and Dantesque pains
fall to and gobble down one last meal
our cooks have been busy, no small deal—
scattered may be our dear loved clan
without mercy, or apparent plan
while some of us are growing prey
others just begun to play
must now together share a wish
for peace, now—to the dish.
That proud and lusty TURK, once forger of his fate
Now through History's quirk, lies roasted on our plate.
The strait drawn pen, the deep hot pot, twin villains of this poem
Confined this bright and winged soul, which
once the wildwood roamed.
Who knows what will be—all's in a frightful flux,
A-tearing folks asunder, frankly, I think it sucks.
Drear circumstance nefarious has driven friends afar
We sit at tables various, curse of some foul dark star.
Alas, civility—O, mutability!
O Dear, says NANCY, so gloomy, and those words—
Davey, I think your grace is simply for the birds,
How about some moral uplift, some poetic diction?
Besides, we're all alive and well, your pout's indulgent fiction.
Think about young AMBER, success, new homes, new friends.
Don't write like you're some Jeffers living at world's end.
Well, as so often must be true,
To get at truth you need minds two.
The years our bodies frazzle, yet fatten wisdom's stock—
We know more loss and hassle, but learn to take life's knocks.
So GRACE descends, from the dark, it makes us all shiver—
Love without end, brilliant the spark, pure gift of the GIVER.
Bright pyrocanthus, rich ruby stained cranberries
Proclaim this time of feasting, making merry—
Hot ovens pour forth sweet aromas
Cholesterol counts go into comas.
Due—humble thanks. Give Nature's works a cheer!!
(We didn't destroy them for ANOTHER year!)
We've been un-Borked, Glasnost gives us hope.
Strange, amazingly, towards peace we seem to grope.
(Even if the Giants fell
the year's not consigned to Hell)
May the vision of John Winthrop's time
& Jefferson's ideals escape the corporate slime.
For friendship, freedom, fairness let us plead,
snatch back the flag from tentacles of greed.
Let's roll back Reagan's foul corruption
and bring forth love's ultimate eruption.
The beauty of the universe
defies reduction to a verse
no need, from us, of hymns of praise—
just, amend our ways.
Oh, I almost forgot
Let's eat while the turkey's hot!
We did, O Lord, compose this GRACE
Antecedent to November Eighth
From fear we'll vote in Bush and Quayle
For then my heart must utterly fail.
The A's o'ercome, then Bush to win—
Awesome must have been our SIN.
Of hope to hope I do despair
Merits our land this odious pair?
NO!! We mustn't let ourselves get blue
But think of Nineteen ninety-two.
Each of us, we all must vow
To turn AMERICA around somehow
The poor, the weak and dispossessed
the crazy, damaged and homeless—
These to help and heal remains our duty
Let's inspire our public life with beauty.
O thanks to turkeys, ducks and geese
vessels of sacramental peace
helping us kindle warmth and love
avatars of Peace's dove.
Let's join hands around this table
to symbolize that we are able
to join in love from sea to sea
and build, in nature, harmony.
Dear Folks, Jokes are not this BIRD's fit sauce.
To find apt words of THANKS I'm at some loss.
The EARTH did split, the land did QUAKE
All joy our bosoms did forsake.
A lifetime's dream, a SERIES jewel
transformed into a month so cruel.
Yet finally, abundant thanks we give
that so few perished, so many LIVED.
And, finally, BASEBALL had its day
Bravo!! Cubs, Jays, Giants, A's—
(Dwell not upon the final tally—
Next year may see a winning rally).
But now, gaze beyond the local troubles
behold: The IRON CURTAIN's rubble!
Another QUAKE unleashed this fall
has taken down the Berlin Wall.
Gorbachev rises, light pierces gloom
New HOPE we can escape sure doom.
Away from arms, our aim is to address
the sludgy mire, our planetary mess.
So upon this upbeat note
I'll ask (it's fashion) for your vote
Will you join me, comrades all
and to our FEAST of SHARING fall???
What? Thanksgiving already? Can't be! Time for grace?
Mercy! These birds slip past our plates at such a pace!
It makes me dizzy. I'm at a loss for speech,
I reach for words. Please, get someone else to preach.
It's mysterious how one's brain, feverish, grows numb.
I'm embarrassed, grope for apt words. I'm serious—
this pace—so furious, even delirious—
it makes me tremble, shake. I fear we succumb,
to time's scythe. It's hard to focus on pilgrims,
succotash, yams and scrumptious meats,
when faced with mounting evidence of defeat—
the Gulf, the A's, my hair. It's grim.
But I glance up—dear friends!! Love fills the room!
Through your light, gathered, grace eclipses doom.
We kicked the year off—it was BAD
bombed the shit out of Baghdad
but Fortune's fickle, we take our turns
Last month we saw our sweet home burn.
Bummer—in fact, it's hard to make a case
why I should give Thanksgiving Grace.
Or what in fact there is to praise—
The bombs? The dead? Our hills ablaze?
Dear friends, smile, celebrate!!!
A year to mourn? All waste? Just hate?
Sweet mercy, lush charity, transform the grim hour
Love, the fabric of our kind, is everywhere a-flower.
Fresh heroes, fresh-born to this brave Earth, arise,
Green grow the hills, tears fill our eyes.
There's endless hope where beats a human heart—
Through pain, smile bright, now let's to feasting start!
Joy for such light, oh ring the bells, right!
Can we hasten cheery winter if we sing?
Let's hear anthems then, chorale odes
Oh heart, oh voice, in rhapsodies explode,
loud boisterous song, wild heedless dance
Urge the season to advance.
This winter is for us full spring
the snow but blossoms, plum, soft cherry
and sweet, just taste that ruby berry,
and oh! What winds! What Zest they bring,
roaring through bright brilliant skies
and such sweet earth beneath them lies.
Such HOPE a single seed can spawn!???
Give THANKS—with LOVE new LIFE does dawn.
Relax, dear cooks! Time to enjoy! The turkey's done.
But now here's Grace—one last barrier to run.
Yet, in spite of fortune's daffy yanks
We render now our annual thanks,
Believing that with due care,
And judicious selection
We'll find our Earth's a temple fair
(Of course, the world's a vale of tears—
We've learned that lesson through the years—
The human soul is such a mix
How control its impish tricks?
But Love's open tender breast
Is far far stronger than the rest.
Crime and hate seem quite unreal
Beside the compassion that we feel!).
So let's give thanks for all that's good—
Now it's time to share our food.
And try our best to live with grace.
As members of the human race.
Remark, dear friends, how dims this faltering light.
The chastened Sun, which southward flees our eyes,
abandons us to Winter's star-chilled night—
in which vast vault Spring's verdant promise dies.
Time's moonlit silver blades quick reap our souls,
while in sweet play Earth's seasons ebb and flow.
Our span's but brief—our fate, black holes;
Life's flowing stream we must, too soon, forgo.
Despair not, be brave, dare to raise a cheer,
and Love and Savour every hour and year!
For from that Force that fells the Flower
Love and Beauty gain their power,
As Youth is bright, Age must be sear,
Give THANKS, with Grace, for Life so dear!
Turkey Turkey in the tray,
You have had a wretched day.
We, however, can all still smile
and walk upon the Earth a while.
Fate is playful, life is cruel,
existence is a sobering school.
Who's the hunter, what's the game?
Got the picture that I frame?
So enjoy your daily fare,
pretend that life isn't a bear.
Give your thanks and gently sigh,
praise the Turkey, now on high.
Kiss the cook and raise your wine,
another year we get to dine!!!
Tradition sets the table, orders the feast.
Above a spotless cloth, purple berries poised
Their deep stain both menace and mystery,
legacy of long-faced boxy Yankees and dark natives,
lithe and handsome, generous with gifts.
Our New England triptych, Pilgrim, Indian, wild turkey.
Down every street, myth sifts with chimney smoke,
burnt offerings of ritual bird, unmentioned penance.
Your forebears? Mine? Whose myths?
Where lies the ache and debt and promise?
From a hundred lands we've come, to hail
Columbia, Gem of the Ocean, Star of the West.
Behind America's closed doors, we mediate the
elusive cipher, which knits us into one, and
in the silence of our hearts, and myriad tongues,
give Thanks, and dream of justice.
Who treads this Earth knows life's a finite game
Cold death soon snares us in his faultless net
and fresh blooms, plucked, from Hebe's verdant breast,
(though bright and sweet, with summer's nectar blessed)
must fade and break, mere skeletons of light.
They bear within their seeds the shade of night.
But we'll give thanks today for life AS IS,
and light a merry smile, for all to share!
Like berries bright our eyes are all aflame,
Eager for the feast that is at hand.
And though, in life, the game is oft unfair,
The grape is sweet, this turkey something rare!
Our glasses gleam; the kettle steams; let's eat!
And soothe life's woes, and pain, in feasting sweet!
To breathe is to be grateful.
To live and love, to laugh with delight,
To taste and understand the qualities
Of pain and pleasure's lure, to endure mortality
Are overwhelming joy.
Oh willowed world, world of leaf and stem,
Of fronds, of blades and baby shoots,
Ruddy sunset and green flash
What better stage than this to play upon?
Wormed within our heart
And flaunted in the stars
Our syntax only hints at.
The galaxies recede
Beyond the matrix of our measure.
Light laughter of Eternity.
Here, take this crust of bread,
Have a sip of wine!
Isn't it good to be here together!!!
Open to the spirit, alive to the bared bough,
You'd guess the phrases might bubble up naturally,
Without reservation, these days when the rains
Begin, and bright Orion slips into the evening sky.
The fiery tango of sun and brush is gone,
Inward wends the heart, to hearth and home.
When next Spring quickens the Earth, we'll inhabit
A new time, perhaps an age of Bush, or Gore, will
Lie ahead—who's to say? But this inevitably
We shall share: High hopes! Humble thanks.
A sense of flickering mortality. A vision
Of a world in balance, drained of anger;
Old books, a few good things to eat, a taste of wine,
And, anon, some weathered stories fit to refine.
Sick and tired of endless idle chatter
Of Bush and Gore?—and does it matter?
The world's too warm, we'll either roast or drown
No matter who's anointed as our chosen clown.
Around the Earth wars boil, foam and rage,
Our race belongs inside a padded cage.
But enough of sad affairs of state
Things look much brighter on our plates:
Tender turkey, yams, cranberries
beans and dressing, wine and gravy.
Friends and family, gathered near
As if there's naught on Earth to fear.
We offer thanks for all these pleasures
The gift of love, and life's sweet treasures.
Excerpted from Thanksgiving by David Kessler. Copyright © 2015 David Kessler. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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