Happy Thanksgiving to all my lovely (Canadian) readers!
I know, I know, if you’re American, Thanksgiving’s not for another month or so. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with your neighbours from the North, right?
Mmmm, Thanksgiving. I wish I could share my homemade pumpkin pies with all of you. It may be the best pumpkin pie in existence. I’m not exaggerating. Or biased, whatsoever.
Pumpkin pies and baked goodies aren’t the only things I’m thankful for though. I’m thankful for a whole lot and when I sat down to think about my gratitude list, I felt almost overwhelmed but really happy.
It made me think: Many of the things we’re thankful for are shaped by where we come from and when we were born. I’m Lao but I was born in a Thai refugee camp. My parents and I immigrated to Canada when I was five years old. Sometimes it blows my mind to know I could’ve led a very different life.
But I also realized how similar we all are even with our diverse backgrounds and varying value systems. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit across from someone who seems so different from me — only to learn we both have a soft spot for Boyz II Men and would prefer to spend our Friday evenings cuddling with our tabby cats.
It’s also a wonderful thing to be able to connect with people I’ve never met and may never meet. Today marks two years since I began Bird of Passage! I’m thankful for this sense of community and for having a platform to share my love of poetry and music.
With that being said, I hope you enjoy this poem by Barbara Ras which sheds light on all the little and big things we may forget to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
You Can’t Have It All, Barbara Ras
But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven- year-old finger on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back. You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August, you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love, though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys until you realize foam’s twin is blood. You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs, so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind, glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness, never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you all roads narrow at the border. You can speak a foreign language, sometimes, and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead, but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts, for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream, the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand. You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed, at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise. You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump, how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards, until you learn about love, about sweet surrender, and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you, you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept. There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s, it will always whisper, you can’t have it all, but there is this.
Ras, Barbara. “You Can’t Have It All.” She Walks in Beauty. Ed. Caroline Kennedy. New York: Hyperion, 2011.