Thanksgiving: As Close to Grace as I Dare Venture: A Collection of Incidental Verse

Thanksgiving: As Close to Grace as I Dare Venture: A Collection of Incidental Verse

by David Kessler


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Since early colonial days, North American communities have stopped for days of prayer and thanksgiving. Grateful for mercies received and sobered by harrowing conflicts, people have paused for a day to reflect upon life's bounties and tragedies. In its current incarnation, however, it is sometimes a shallow splurge of food and football. Only vestiges of this initial community tradition of thoughtful reflection can sometimes be found.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496972668
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 03/06/2015
Pages: 52
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.12(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt


As Close to Grace as I Dare Venture

By David Kessler


Copyright © 2015 David Kessler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4969-7266-8



    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
    Mirroring perfection.
    (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!

    1994 (reprise)

    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
    Are mysteries
    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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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