To the Tally of Our Souls

It is both easy and difficult to give thanks, to be thankful.

It seems an ingratitude to be ambivalent or even hostile to the notion of this day as a kind of celebration.

But we cannot help, with the past to educate us, be aware that what we are thankful for often comes at the expense of some other.

We are often thankful for our fortune though we be unfortunate.  We are thankful for our loved ones though they may never enter our lives otherwise.  We are thankful for the very air we breathe, though it is only air and perhaps no longer much for which to be thankful.

We ask our least fortunate to be thankful to society for feeding them on this day.  We serve penance by serving the homeless ladles of gravy.  There but for the grace of…is this grace?

Finally, so as to chide oneself into not speaking out against the very notion of thanksgiving, we speak of love.  If we do not have a home, a mother, a father, a child, we give thanks to the great circumferance above (or inside us)–we are never alone, never unloved, if we love this idea.

Further, to be ungrateful is often to call down wrath upon ourselves, to court misfortune.

I am indeed loved and I do love.  And I offer it up.  But it cannot be all that I give.

I am as much a man of anger, and it is difficult to not only offer that anger and make a show of pain.  Though it is ancient wisdom that learning only comes from suffering, against our will, and that this too is the action of divinity.

I am lucky to be the soul residing in this body, in this city, in this house, with this family, with these opportunities.

I am lucky that I am not a soul confined to a body born in so many other used and wasted lands, though this too is one of those.

Unlucky the cradle of civilization, buried age upon age by ruthless sands, yet bursting forth as testament again and again, only to be looted by the envious other, exploded and demolished and burned.  Ash cannot forever bring forth hopeful wings.

My luck, ephemeral and unpredictable though it is, is an expense borne by uncounted and countless others.

What was is no more, an endless round, to be sure: but more sure that one should not be grateful to be a party to such massive ruination.  No palliative the admonition that slayer and slain are one, for surely suffering is a greater weight than airy pleasure.

And this place, this home, this country, this land, this possession out of dispossession, this template land, in the eyes of so many others, must be the birthplace of all misfortune.

I am this too.  But this has always already been told.

To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.

And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierced with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken

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I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.

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  1. focus November 24, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Excellent post Doug.

    1. Douglas Storm November 24, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Thanks, Pho


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