my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


by Mary Mackey

One November
a week before Thanksgiving
the Ohio river froze
and my great uncles
put on their coats
and drove the turkeys
across the ice
to Rosiclare
where they sold them
for enough to buy
my grandmother
a Christmas doll
with blue china eyes

I like to think
of the sound of
two hundred turkey feet
running across to Illinois
on their way
to the platter
the scrape of their nails
and my great uncles
in their homespun leggings
calling out gee and haw and git
to them as if they
were mules

I like to think of the Ohio
at that moment
the clear cold sky
the green river sleeping
under the ice
before the land got stripped
and the farm got sold
and the water turned the color
of whiskey
and all the uncles
lay down
and never got up again

I like to think of the world
before some genius invented
turkeys with pop-up plastic
in their breasts
idiot birds
with no wildness left in them
turkeys that couldn't run the river
to save their souls
"Turkeys" by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever.
© Marsh Hawk Press, 2006

I really liked the imagery of Turkeys. I can envision this taking place 100 years ago on the Clarion river with my ancestors.
I truly don't know what to think of this poem by Merwin. Is he being sarcastic or am I just too cynical to see the gratitude he is seeing. I don't think we are saying thank you much at all. Any thoughts?

  W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is


Jenn said...

The first poem makes me think: Nostalgia. I imagine the scenes in the color palette of Norman Rockwell paintings. The author perceived how things were more connected then and how there was more ceremony I like it.
I don't know what to think of the second poem either. Upon my first reading, I thought the first few verses seem to suggest that the reader is grateful, despite those bad things happening, but, then the last verse seems sarcastic, mocking, and depressing. When I reread it, it seems to reflect a person who believes the world around him is superficial and he is frustrated.

maryanne said...

OK, this will be no.3 try to get my comments posted, here we go...=)
First poem for me reflected the nostalgia Jenn talked about and the vivid images the author presented thru his words. My dad takes me down memory lane with his tales of the way things were "back then"...I could feel the sadness with the loss of rituals of the past both in the author's words and my dad's.
The second for me reminded me of the importance of being thankful/grateful for what we have in life. The attitude of gratitude involves action like saying thank you. I know attitude is 90% and I chose what kind of day I have.
Thanks Pam! Thanks Jenn!