Essay: Thanksgiving Poem

Nov 20, 2020

I was home from college for Thanksgiving and asked if I could read a poem at the dinner table.  Having just taken my first serious poetry class, I was in love with Emily Dickinson.  My family didn’t read much poetry, but my mother welcomed my suggestion and said I could use the poem as our blessing.

And so I opened my book and began reading:

“Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
and Immortality.”

I looked up and saw all the stricken faces.  Somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that a poem about death might not be the best choice for Thanksgiving dinner or any dinner.  Still, I kept reading—because the images were so vivid and the language so beautiful. 

Surely my audience could appreciate that!  They did not.  Silence followed the poem and then my father cleared his throat and started to carve the turkey. 

Looking back now, I have to smile at the young woman who made such a grave mistake in the name of poetry.  No one ever mentioned the poem again, for which I give thanks.  Thanks, also, to Emily Dickinson and her immortal work.