On this day of gratitude

Spokane – Centennial Trail

I write these short lines on Thanksgiving morning, a holiday which for many is the most important one of the year.

I for one feel extremely grateful to have served the past 10 months as the Poet Laureate of Washington State. I can say without equivocation that every corner of our State I have visited, from the barren hills overlooking Clarkston in the south east corner to the rolling hills of Orcas Island in springtime, from Spokane in full autumn glory to Bellingham under the spell of summer’s solstice, has filled me with awe and marvel.

I am thankful to have basked in myriad moments of natural beauty and to have shared my love of words with all sorts of writing communities: some small, some thriving, some mighty and some in the making as in young writers in the schools. I have also interacted with so many individuals who value community building through the power of language, such as the inspiring teachers and librarians with whom I have collaborated and others who have invited me to share poetry in community centers, longhouses, farms, vineyards, cafes, bookstores, parks, classrooms, auditoriums and radio stations.

I thank every adult, every youth and child I have thus far connected with for keeping my inner fire and hope alive, for sharing with me a joint conviction that words matter. It is through them that we convey our joint humanity.

The poem I am sharing to mark this day of gratitude is part of a four-part cycle I titled, American Four Seasons, written in response to Charles Yves’ New England Holidays symphony. This poetic venture was part of a larger collaboration with The Seattle Symphony https://www.seattlesymphony.org/inthecommunity/simple-gifts/projects/all-of-us-belong

Happy Thanksgiving!


Autumn Thanks

We are gathered here today

to observe, not so much the end of the Fast

which continues to this day relentless,

the way ancient glaciers dragged

boulders across centuries.

The rumbling mass of injustice

fueled by greed that you sought to starve César,

still careens under western and eastern skies alike

extracting widows, homeless, mourners, sufferers

in the lamentable social strife

in which we find ourselves.

Light wanes turning leaves fire and gold

revealing over horizon’s lip

the margins of our days.

Time it is to give thanks

for grandpa and grandma

sitting in the old living room sofa holding hands

waiting for their slice of apple pie

and for the cousins playing

their annual football game

in the park across the street.

We gather to acknowledge

our mothers’ lost hours,

lost on growing the alabaster

bones on which we stand.

We give thanks for ancestors

who came before us and lost,

for courageous walkouts

and for those who subsist

on malnourished minimum wage checks

for they will one day be relics

of our grinding, slow march

toward justice.

If we in our days, put a fraction

of what bird puts into her song

we may yet reap a future

when injustice and war are the moraine

of our present, bitter, epoch.

We are gathered here today.



César Chavez – “We are gathered here today to observe, not so much the end of the Fast” from On Ending Fast – 1968

From participant’s notes Cascade Women’s Program – “grandpa and grandma”

Abraham Lincoln – “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged” from Proclamation of Thanksgiving

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