Thanksgiving Suite

A small Thanks-giving Prayer

1. Personal Installation

A small thanks-giving
for the common gifts of your life
the expected ones
the ones you receive if you live with others
your family
a livelihood
the works of your hands
the good you have done in the world
the good done you
these first fruits
the model from the first Thanksgiving
when the Pilgrims and others
brought down the Biblical festival
Sukkot as their guide:

When you enter the land, [Deut.26:1-3]
go to the holy man,
take baskets of first fruits,
go where God tells you.
Give your baskets to the holy man,
then – tell him what happened, in brief:
we have been lost, we are coming home.
End the story with gratitude
for having been brought to this place.

Bow down and sit together with
the holy ones
and the strangers among you.
Have a meal together.

Set up large stones,
inscribe the teachings,
every word,
on the stones.

Today you have become a people of
God.
Live in that for a long time.

2. Thanks-giving Installation

When they entered the land, they were grateful, the Pilgrims.
They landed December 11, 1620, the first winter devastating —
46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower
died.

There was no thanksgiving that first winter. If there had been
a way back, I imagine a good number of them would have taken it,

But when you’re in the thick of it, when you wonder if
there are better days ahead
that’s the time for thanks-giving
when it’s the least likely emotion —

The next year — they had a bountiful harvest
they celebrated the first successful harvest
with a meal
1621
they only had to wait a year
I imagine it was a long year
but by that second year —
a great harvest, the earth
had been waiting in incipient
fecundity for tending, respect,
intimacy. The survivors celebrated
with a feast, the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims
ate together at Plymouth Massachusetts. The
Pilgrims invited 91 Natives who helped the Pilgrims
survive
after the shock of the first winter.

I haven’t been there – to Plymouth Massachusetts
I have been to Plymouth Michigan
Next to where I grew up
I used to wonder —
why is it called Plymouth?
What pride is there in this story —

3. How Plymouth Michigan got its Name

The first settlers in Michigan met 25 miles west of Detroit
February 26, 1827, the downtown then was officially called
Podunk. Podunk was already the term for a mythical American
Town, derived from a group of natives who settled
around the Podunk river in Connecticut.
Podunk became code for small American town
throughout the century
the Buffalo Daily National Pilot newspaper ran
Letters from Podunk — a series beginning January 5, 1846.

The north end of Plymouth town was called Joppa
A Biblical reference to the port near Tel Aviv
somebody suggested Peking as a name for the town
their first choice was LeRoy
— but those names were taken
some of the early settlers came from Plymouth
Mass-a-chu-setts
so they called it Plymouth, Michigan.

We live in a great country.

4. Big Tent Country

Full of goofy stories
Big feelings
Gratitude
Thanks and thanks-giving emanating
from Plymouth Massachusetts
second winter

Here
in St. Louis, Missouri, where I sit down
I tell it to the wind with our hair wound long
Passing the story stick to craft and memory
Claiming the tale for honor and delight
And the last taste
gratitude
as taught by the elders
who wrote it on a wall
read it by flames
beginning in stillness
concluding in gratitude
come home brothers and sisters
you may dig yourselves permanent wells here
without fear
you may feel
thankfulness
like you have never known
live in that for a long
time

and for this Thanks-giving —
you may be as the Hebrew Bible holds
ach sameach [Deut. 16:15]
entirely
happy
in your fest-iv-al time

Amen.

jsg, usa