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Greetings Poets! Welcome to Haibun Monday, where we blend prose and haiku into something new. Frank J. Tassone here, and today, I want to reflect on that vital emotion that’s too often ignored: gratitude!

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The United States officially celebrates Thanksgiving this Thursday:

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United StatesCanada, some of the Caribbean islands, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.

Thanksgiving, as noted above, is not only an American holiday. It’s a celebration of thankfulness, of gratitude.

We are all aware of our difficulties. They can sometimes appear overwhelming. It’s easy to see, then, why so many of us may overlook gratitude. “What do we have to be thankful for?” we may ask. If I’m being honest, I often ask that question through the train of my worries and my overreactions to frustration.

In all honesty, however, I have so much for which to be grateful. My career, family, passion and capacity for writing, alone, are all reasons for my gratitude. My middle-class status, the relative security and prosperity of my nation, state and city are gratitude-worthy, too. If nothing else, the silent awe in the present moment, when I am mindful of what is, and that I am. Oh, how much gratitude I can experience, if I unburden myself of my anxieties and resentments.

The following poets capture well the essence of gratitude:

Wild Gratitude

Edward Hirsch – 1950-

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,

And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,

And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,

And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,

And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,

I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,

Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing

In every one of the splintered London streets,

And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke’s

With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,

And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,

And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.

All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how

Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,

For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General

“And all conveyancers of letters” for their warm humanity,

And the gardeners for their private benevolence

And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,

And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.

This morning I understood that he loved to hear—

As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles

On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

And how terrible it must have seemed

When even this small pleasure was denied him.

But it wasn’t until tonight when I knelt down

And slipped my hand into Zooey’s waggling mouth

That I remembered how he’d called Jeoffry “the servant

Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,”

And for the first time understood what it meant.

Because it wasn’t until I saw my own cat

Whine and roll over on her fluffy back

That I realized how gratefully he had watched

Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork

Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently

Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening

His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose

Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or

Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,

A rodent, “a creature of great personal valour,”

And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

And only then did I understand

It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—

Who can teach us how to praise—purring

In their own language,

Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

From Wild Gratitude by Edward Hirsch Copyright © 1986 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

What Was Told, That

Jalal al-Din Rumi – 1207-1273

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

From The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems, translated by Coleman Barks, published by HarperCollins. Translation copyright © 2002 by Coleman Barks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

This week, let us consider gratitude: Its essence, those reasons we have for feeling it, and what our lives—and our world—may look like if we live it.

Use this as your jumping-off point and write a haibun that alludes to gratitude. For those new to haibun, the form consists of one to a few paragraphs of prose—usually written in the present tense—that evoke an experience and are often non-fictional/autobiographical. They may be preceded or followed by one or more haiku—nature-based, using a seasonal image—that complement without directly repeating what the prose stated.

New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:

  • Write a haibun that references memorial as described above.
  • Post it on your personal site/blog.
  • Copy your link onto the Mr. Linky.
  • Remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
  • Include the link to Haibun Monday, or tag your post with dVerse.
  • Have fun!