Thanksgiving for Two

by Marjorie Saiser

The adults we call our children will not be arriving
with their children in tow for Thanksgiving. 
We must make our feast ourselves, 

slice our half-ham, indulge, fill our plates, 
potatoes and green beans 
carried to our table near the window.

We are the feast, plenty of years, 
arguments. I’m thinking the whole bundle of it 
rolls out like a white tablecloth. We wanted 

to be good company for one another. 
Little did we know that first picnic 
how this would go. Your hair was thick, 

mine long and easy; we climbed a bluff 
to look over a storybook plain. We chose 
our spot as high as we could, to see

the river and the checkerboard fields. 
What we didn’t see was this day, in 
our pajamas if we want to, 

wrinkled hands strong, wine
in juice glasses, toasting 
whatever’s next, 

the decades of side-by-side, 
our great good luck.

From I Have Nothing to Say about Fire
The Backwaters Press, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press, 2016.

Though it may not always seem the case during the holidays, we get to choose which river we step into, by making the most of every given moment and letting the current of love carry us through.

It’s difficult to resist the social pressure that turns the holidays into an excuse for consumption and stress. Yet Marjorie Saiser brings love and acceptance to a situation that might anger or disappoint other parents: her children will not be coming home for Thanksgiving. Even in the first line, she acknowledges that they are adults with lives and children of their own, and we even sense a hint of relief that she and her husband will get to “indulge” alone this year, reminiscing about “that first picnic” that led them to this day together.

Saiser reminds us that when we “make our feast ourselves,” when we transform the holidays back into holy days that focus on joy and deeper connection, we see how the abundance of our “good company,” no matter who or what that might be, “rolls out like a white tablecloth” before us. So often, we’re caught in the rush of obligation that we forget to pause and drink from the more nourishing waters of thanks for our lives as they are, in all their messiness. The author and counselor Sheryl Paul points out, “There are two rivers that pulse through the holiday season: a river of anxiety informed by the need to consume and socialize and stay loud and busy, and a river of love informed by the waters of giving and gratitude.” Though it may not always seem the case during the holidays, we get to choose which river we step into, by making the most of every given moment and letting the current of love carry us through.


Try journaling or writing a poem about your own Thanksgiving and list what “given moments” you anticipate during the day that you very much look forward to. You might also focus on the present moment of preparing for this holy day of thanks, describing the sensations of joy and glimpses of gratefulness that can come even in the midst of such busyness when we pause and decide to step into “the river of love.”

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James Crews

James Crews

About the author

James Crews’ work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun Magazine, Ploughshares, and The New Republic, as well as on Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry newspaper column. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Writing & Literature from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and is the author of four collections of award-winning poetry, including The Book of What Stays (Prairie Schooner Prize and Foreword Book of the Year Citation, 2011), Telling My Father(Cowles Prize, 2017), Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of several anthologies of poetry: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection; and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. He leads Mindfulness & Writing retreats online and throughout the country, and works as a creative coach with groups and individuals. He lives with his husband, Brad Peacock, in Shaftsbury, Vermont.