Culture Clash

A Last Thanksgiving Thought

All are home now if they traveled far to family. The meals are digested. The work week begins our cycles anew, with all the usual commitments, enthusiasms, and furors. We were in Nebraska, with Julia’s family. From my sister-in-law Anne, I received this by email.

It was a sad day for me, thinking about all the wonderful Thanksgivings past and all those who aren’t here anymore.  Other than the anniversary of Jeff’s death, Thanksgiving is the most difficult day.  It was his favorite and he spent so much time preparing and decorating. He reveled being the host and in the company of family and friends.  We are all lucky to have those memories of eating too much (I came across photos of each one of us bloated and laid out on a chair or couch), competitive pool  games, lively spirited conversations, TV blaring in the background, and take home left overs for all.

Different food for a longer meal.

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A Memory

I awoke today in the shadowy dim light of the pre-morning, and as I will, I lingered, to feel my body’s not-yet awakening, its comfort still in the homey impresses of the bed, the dawning recollection of its minor aches while my mind reached weakly, moment by moment, to crawl out of its foggy depths. Call it rest. I do not wake with a yawn and a cheery stretch of the arms.

I linger longer. I reach for my tablet and begin to read. The mind reenters first, only after, the body. I peer with my first weak effort of the day through my cyber portal into the world. But I am still in bed. And in the weak light that is not yet light, an image comes to me, of my mother and father already up, already about the business of the day, the readiness, the chores, the obligations, the work, the doings that must be done.

My parents were not lingerers in the comforts and reluctance of the morning, and their work was not like mine. I read, I write, I create, I teach, I engage the mind. I should hardly call it work, it is so like breathing, necessary and pleasurable as is the fulfillment of any need. It is only that often, after very long days of doing little else, I am fatigued as one is from what we call work.

My parents labored, because the life of the poor, and both were born poor, if it will be more than that, requires labor. Lfe to be a life of value, and ironically, to be a life of deeper pleasure, requires labor. Care for a family requires labor.  My parents’ pleasure, less in the work itself, though they had some, was in the laboring. Unlike me, they did not – could not – retire a little longer into the first recesses of the day.

I thought of this perhaps, in my day’s early mind, because Tuesday would have been my mother’s 97th birthday. She died at 88. I imagined her and my father up already for hours, even in the darkness, while I as a child even still slept. I remembered when I was in the latter grades of elementary school. My sister was already married and out of the home. By brother and I were due at school by 8 a.m. We had to wake ourselves, with alarms, because both our mother and father worked in Manhattan and had to travel up to two hours by subway to get there.

Every morning, after we had wrestled ourselves into wakefulness, and washed and dressed and approached the kitchen bleary and dragging, my brother and I would find on the table, prepared by our father, a cup of tea each, covered by aluminum foil held tight by a slender rubber band.  On a sandwich plate, for each of us, was a slice of toast already buttered. By the time we reached them, by about 7:15 in the morning each day, the toast was soggy, the tea long cold. We ate and drank while our parents rattled through the subway tunnels of New York.


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Culture Clash Uncategorized

Eating Poetry (XL) – As from a Quiver of Arrows


A poem about loss, or the end of things, if there is an end to things, or transformation, or it maybe being the nature in things to be lost, and remembered, so how remembered? Or maybe it is forgetting we want, and where is that, and if we do forget, what was it? To work against forgetting, or not. And who would we be?


by Carl Phillips

What do we do with the body, do we
burn it, do we set it in dirt or in
stone, do we wrap it in balm, honey,
oil, and then gauze and tip it onto
and trust it to a raft and to water?

What will happen to the memory of his
body, if one of us doesn’t hurry now
and write it down fast? Will it be
salt or late light that it melts like?
Floss, rubber gloves, a chewed cap

to a pen elsewhere–how are we to
regard his effects, do we throw them
or use them away, do we say they are
relics and so treat them like relics?
Does his soiled linen count? If so,

would we be wrong, then, to wash it?
There are no instructions whether it
should go to where are those with no
linen, or whether by night we should
memorially wear it ourselves, by day

reflect upon it folded, shelved, empty.
Here, on the floor behind his bed, is
a bent photo–why? Were the two of
them lovers? Does it mean, where we
found it, that he forgot it or lost it

or intended a safekeeping? Should we
attempt to make contact? What if this
other man too is dead? Or alive, but
doesn’t want to remember, is human?
Is it okay to be human, and fall away

from oblation and memory, if we forget,
and can’t sometimes help it and sometimes
it is all that we want? How long, in
dawns or new cocks, does that take?
What if it is rest and nothing else that

we want? Is it a findable thing, small?
In what hole is it hidden? Is it, maybe,
a country? Will a guide be required who
will say to us how? Do we fly? Do we
swim? What will I do now, with my hands?

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