Posts Tagged 'prayer'

Thanksgiving prayer

 

Mama put granny in front of the fireplace with a bowl of black-eyed peas to shuck. Shuck shuck, shucking peas is good luck, I hear gramma singing to herself. I myself don’t care much for black-eyed peas. Too much work, and they taste like dirt, don’t you think?

 Well, coming as we did from both pilgrims and Indians, this branch of the family is steeped in traditions. Gravy boats, tureens, peace pipes, feather head-dresses, whisky and tantrums. Remember old grand-dad’s granddad? Well, not exactly, but remember the stories of old granddad’s granddad? One-legged Indian, hand-rolled cigarettes. Remember the feel of tobacco sticking on your lip when you roll your own? Remember the match scorching the ends of your fingertips? Remember the big mixed-up feasts, with corn and store-bought pies and Tofurky for the half-dozen vegans every generation has produced since Tofurky was invented by scientists in the cold-war time, developed for astronauts, for up in the night sky where who knew what principles might apply to the decomposition of meat products in a zero gravity environment for the edification of star-traveling carnivores. Tofurkey was originally packaged in a tube like toothpaste or hiker’s peanut butter, but was created to be served for Thanksgiving in orbit.

Forty years ago today, I squeezed a bit of gravy onto my Tofurkey, sitting like a log on my melamine plate, which was latched securely to my armrest. It was the first time in 30 days I had raised food to my mouth using a utensil, a fork-like device that clamped over the bolus and delivered it to my mouth in a more natural way than the tube-to-mouth suck we’d all been doing since leaving earth’s gravity. Our first Thanksgiving in outer space. Cranberry lozenges. Pumpkin pie patches – these leave a taste without ever touching the mouth. A weightless burp. These are real-life stories from the astronauts and the cosmonauts – we were a peace delegation, we were cold war campers, with whipped cream and hope and toilets with seat belts – and we shared this ritual. Thanks-Giving.

I give thanks for the long-ago realization of my Mayberry dreams, my red-headed childhood, my belief, fostered by the irritable but non-toxic dreams of my grandparents, who suffered as all working people have suffered since before we had lift-off, since before Houston had a problem, since before the giant step was taken. The belief in transcendence, the transcendentalists of early American thought. The uppity belief in the power of belief. Beyond gravity, space, time, history. I give thanks for marshmallows, whatever they are, for relatives, for strangers, for the dancing cosmos that do not know whether we celebrate in darkness or in light, on earth or in the heavens. Amen.

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At the intersection

© Teresa Valle 2006

I. Making change

Keep it in your pocket.
Give it to the men who hold signs in exhaust.
Give it to the barista with the plump little belly, the bright nose ring.

Change happens during coagulation, the altering of blood from liquid
to solid. A settling of substance, the end result a state of no change.
During circulation, the end result is no end result, end process only,
a flowing away of substance; never stops leaving,
never finishes arriving.

The biological definition of life is irritability.
If you poke it with a stick and it responds, it must be alive.

Curmudgeonly, the living. In a continual state of reaction and withdrawal.
Tidal.  Moonscape shows the blue-lit octopus waving his tentacles,
restless and resting, reaching, grabbing, sucking      exclamation points declaiming
alive alive alive      into the deep blue deep blue below

foggy eyes move past, bubbles
rise and sing and gasp

            Luke, I’m your father. Down on his knees, Luke crying
            Jesus fucking Christ I am alive and it hurts, old dad

           But old dad just keeps on wheezing, deeper and darker, colder
           than obsidian.           What a terrible risk it is

to be alive, what a terrible risk we say, and imagine a cold old
Davy Jones and the breathless beyond. We are sure
            somehow      that the unreachable unknowable is more
desirable than here where we struggle for air.

II. Evolution

Imagine that you are on your knees praying       day and night       except 
when working at your job,      scrubbing the toilet,      weeding
your garden,      washing your children,      taking your lover in
your mouth.     One day it occurs to you that

your life revolves around genuflection
bowing and scraping and breathing for release.  A remembrance of waves
washes by one day and draws you back into the deep.  The sound of air
calls a song from over-yonder and that reminds you
          somehow
of your grandpa and his mean-spirited lay gospel.  You imagine him
in the great beyond and it seems to have surprised him.  He’s wearing

nice clothes,    but    half the Beach Boys are there with him,
and lots of old blue-black blues men, and he’s pretty sure
there was supposed to be two heavens, one for white folks,
one for coloreds.    But    even before he passed he noticed
it was getting harder to tell exactly what color some folks
was, and it’s possible that that great great grandma of his mighta
been more colored than Indian,    so    maybe there was

   separate heavens, and he’d gotten assigned according to lineage,
the begettings and begottens of  a long family. He starts to think
 about evolution and himself as  half-man, half crocodile. This makes him
smile; he pats his own arms and belly,
looking for scales, or feathers, or something that says

man, here, is part of a continuum, not a settling of accounts, not
an end point.    But      patting his pocket he finds some
change      a few quarters, a nickel with an unfamiliar profile.
III. At the intersection

He sits for a long time on a log in a quiet place that smells of
swamp and a faint sea breath, playing with the coins, flipping
    head tail head head tail tail head    smoothing them
warm with thumb and forefinger.          Eventually, the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.
the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

 


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