Thanksgiving Day Poem
My people were all poor people,
the ones who survived to look
in my eyes and touch my fingers
and those who didn’t, dying instead
of fever, hunger, or even a bullet
in the face, dying maybe thinking
of how their deaths were balanced
by my birth or one of the other
stories the poor tell themselves
to give themselves the strength
to crawl out of their own graves.
Not all of them had this strength
but enough did, so that I’m here
and you’re here reading this poem
about them. What kept them going?
Maybe something in the souls
of people who start with nothing
and end with nothing, and in between
live from one handful of nothing
to the next handful of nothing.
They keep going--through the terror
in the snow and the misery
in the rain--till some guy pierces
their stomachs with a bayonet
or some sickness grips them, and still
they keep going, even when there
aren’t any rungs on the ladder
even when there aren’t any ladders.