Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us


Poets Online Archive


December 2020

It's the end of a terrible year. In America, we celebrated Thanksgiving last month, though celebrating was very different than in past years. Many families could not get together due to pandemic restrictions and fear of hurting those they love. Still, I felt like people were still looking for things to give thanks for despite all the bad news in 2020.

Our model poem was "Thanks" by W.S. Merwin from his collection Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). I can identify with many things in the poem in the context of 2020 though it was written years ago. Of course, that is what is true about all great literature - that it continues to be relevant long after it is written.

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you

That makes me think not only of Thanksgiving dinner but of the several meteor showers that appear in the final months of the year.

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

Hospitals and funerals (though very different when they do occur) and the news is full every night about the number of cases of COVID19 and the number of deaths globally.

over telephones we are saying thank you
Over phones is very likely how you have stayed in touch and talked with friends and loved ones.

And we may be frustrated with
the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change"
we go on saying thank you thank you

There is a kind of optimism in the idea that

we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Some might call this a praise poem which is one of tribute, of gratitude, of honoring something or someone. I think it is different than that, but you can read some praise poems online and decide for yourself.

It is interesting that in Merwin's list of things to be thankful for are probably some things for which you would not be thankful. Perhaps, his final lines -  “we are saying thank you and waving / dark though it is” explain their inclusion.

An additional poem to consider is one by Joy Harjo that was included on a list of "Thanksgiving poems for kids." I'm not sure how old a "kid" would need to be to understand that poem, but I like the image of the kitchen table which is both a real kitchen table and the table of the world. 

I also like how the rather pessimistic title - "Perhaps the World Ends Here" - leads rights into its opposite - "The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live" so that when we arrive again at that title line it continues with "while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite." 

For this year-ending prompt that concludes a very difficult 2020, we asked poets to consider thanks in all forms. From a list of many things to be thankful for, to a dismissive, sarcastic thanks, there are many things on that table of thanks - some we love, some we cannot love.
For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


Too long at the computer –
I walk out into the woods, blue and valley oaks,
live-oaks. I thank them for keeping my secrets,
worries and hopes, and returning them every year
to earth, like leaf-fall that beds and covers
the 10th grade girl murdered in the forest –
old news long buried.
I’m thankful for the oaks remaining after last
year’s slaughter of trees in the name of fire safety,
lest they fall on powerlines, sparking conflagration.
I’m thankful for oaks that survive
our wildfire summers, and wonder how long
they’ll still be with us, and we with them,
bound to this earth that births and buries thanks.

Taylor Graham


I haven’t seen one like it since it cracked apart.
The exterior, now ceramic shards and chunks,
Once a field of roses
Wrapped like a thoroughbred’s winning garland,
Into its shapely, curvy form.

Pink and white and red and salmon-hued plaster pieces
Helpless on the floor.
What a mistake, entering her forbidden space,
Destined to be found out, but now so obvious,
The marks of trespass, unalterable.

“You’ll make a lousy burglar,” our mother said
As she coaxed me off a stone ledge
At the top of the block
And back to the house,
Grateful for her refuge from the anger soon to be.

Rob Friedman


This year I gave thank-you cards in December
for Hanukkah, Christmas, the New Year
to people who helped me this pandemic year.
Two to family nearby, the mailman,
three people who came to the door with packages,
the pizza delivery girl, the grocery delivery man,
my neighbor who works at a supermarket gets thanks
for doing his job and bringing me hard-to-get item
as with my doctor for everyone he met with.
All things I took for granted and so I also
took these people for granted.
It should not take a disaster to give thanks,
but it did in these cases.
Thanks for the reminders.
Thanks for allowing me to write
poems and messages of gratitude.
Thank you for reading this.
Pass it on to the others.

Pamela Milne


Beneath a late December moon
The pond sweats
Silver puddles form on ice
Too thin for deer to cross
Too thick for the embarrassed geese
That glide, as if to land, but can’t
So “touch and go” instead
Like student pilots

The woods are bottle green
And dark
Boughs smothered in wet snow
Droop under heavy weight
A slippery perch
For sleeping wrens
And hungry owls
Out on the hunt

Cabin windows all aglow
Bathe neatly stacked
Fresh cords of wood
In yellow light
Inside, we curl up on the couch
Warmed by a blazing fire

Thankful for this safe retreat
From a world consumed
By violence and hate
Grateful for our lives
The years we’ve shared
Another snowbound
Winter’s night

Frank Kelly


It may start as a shadow,.
Sometimes it sparks, flashes.
illuminates my surroundings,
settles in a grateful place.

At night I dream that I
am a seraph and you are
the wind. We soar through
the universe..

I, am an unwritten haiku.
I wish to capture the color of
wind. I am a koan. I chase
the wisdom of the ages.

Thank you Jesus, Buddha,
Martin.....and so many more.
Thank you a thousand times.
Thank you a thousand times.

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


My shamanic pillar of strength
is firmly rooted in the wisdom of the ancients,
embedded in rocks laid down long ago,
while its crowning glory is the sacred triad
of Love, Forgiveness and Gratitude.

Love is for myself, for others, for the world.
Love is for everything and everyone, despite.
Love is for all those who walk, run, burrow, fly, crawl and swim,
the visible, and the invisible alike.
I'm thankful for all the Love in my life,
both proffered and received.

Through Forgiveness, bridges are built
to those I don't think I can love
for past slights and misdemeanours;
for heartbreaks and rejections;
or, for just being different from me
in ways I simply can't understand.
I'm thankful that I'm learning Forgiveness,
crossing those bridges, one by one, to Love.

I start each day in a spirit of Gratitude.
I'm thankful for my friends, my family,
my excellent health, my inquisitive
and questing nature, my talents, my training,
my fortitude and resilience.
I'm thankful to all of my ancestors
who's collective efforts across the centuries
culminated in my very existence here, today.
I'm thankful for my enchanted home,
in which everything has a story to tell,
and is surrounded by the endless, natural beauty
of fells, fields, forests, and the canopy of stars
on a cold, crisp winters night.
I am grateful for being part of the All,
and that the All resides within me, as One.

I Love acknowledging the Gratitude I feel,
and I Forgive myself whenever I forget
just how blessed I truly am.

Robert Best


"You have only yourself to thank
for the situation you're in,"
he said when he left me.
He meant it to hurt
and at the time it did.
He was like an extracted tooth
that I probed at continually
somehow always surprised
at the absence, at the hole
and that I had done it to myself.
That was six months ago.
Wounds heal.
Empty space is filled.
Today I gave myself three gifts
to thank myself
for the situation I am in.

Lianna Wright


Inside my house
Warm and dry
I sit at my desk
Where there is still work
I watch through the window
Through very myopic but seeing eyes
Two squirrels playing
In a winter’s tree
Bereft of leaves
but more beautiful
Than its summer self
Its bare simplicity
Against the squirrels’ lush coats
I take delight in their game
And I’m pleased that I do
That I still can
I wonder how they are faring
Whether their stores are enough
Or if they are still waiting
For a government check
I push the sad joke away and out
of my weary but chemically balanced brain
Better to laugh than cry
I continue smiling at the hijinks
Of these two little mammals
(And that there is such a word as hijinks)
Performing gratis aerial acts sans net
“Bravo!” I say aloud
Before the lights come down
And I must return to my seat
I’m hoping for another act
But the squirrels run off
In different stage left/stage right directions
I thank Mother Nature
For this brief intermission
However fleeting
I feel less alone
I hope the duo return tomorrow
Not just for the entertainment and company
But just because
I like knowing they’re out there
Just being their squirrel selves
A small yet reassuring constant
That makes me smile again
And gives me hope
That we too can make it through
The winter and beyond
"Thank you" I whisper
As I add unshelled nuts
To this week's shopping list

Terri J. Guttilla

NEW YEAR’S, 2020

Today I will give thanks
for the glass brimming,
for the one half full,
for moments of exile
(a year, for that matter),
for miracles that appear
in the night; for strangers’
prayers, their intercessions
a sweet aroma causing

God’s nostrils to tingle; for
birthdays and anniversaries;
for summer nights, the rain
warm like mothers’ milk; for
winter’s gully washers and
low-moaning mountain groans
and darkness that we may know
light; for solitude that breaks into
sounds of bassoons and laughter
and obstreperous celebration;
for sisters who stand with you
and by you and for you, who
will set you straight; for a
new year’s possibilities; for
forgiveness and pardon and
grace, yes, for unmerited grace.
Thank you, thank you.

Jo Taylor


"We give thanks," I heard it said
several times this past few months
but nothing was given but words/
"It was the least I could do"
meaning you could have done much more.
The gift, given "In gratitude for your service"
derived from ingratitude, from Late Latin ingratitudo.
"No thanks to you"
and "Thanks for nothing."
All my prayers sent out to no one at all.

Charles Michaels


Through this year of struggle and Pain
There was always one thing that remained
2D worlds where I escape
Off to find that better place
Where the sky shines even in rain
And yes these worlds can cause me pain
It hurts like a fist through my chest
it ripped out my heart and left the rest
But yet I go back in head first
Because the lessons it taught me will go on
To not give up on your dream
No matter if they clipped your wings
To stand and show your soul
and fight for all you know
To sail the sea and not lose sight
Of the treasure that lit the flame to fight
And yet one thing still remains
Those 2D worlds that help me take flight
From all those long and restless nights

Alexis Ratti


I am thankful for our memories.
Thankful for each moment we spent,
Underneath the lasting night,
And never-ending day.
For every full moon
That guides our way.
For every tarot spread
That revealed our destinies,
Protected by our crystal accessories.
Thankful for the witch’s cats,
Who crossed our paths,
Bringing good luck instead of bad.
Thankful for every book I read,
Ceaseless fantasies
Encapsulating my reality.
Wishing these stories were my actuality.
Spying upon our galaxies,
The encounter of Jupiter and Saturn,
Finally together again,
Thankful to see each other after
Only eight-hundred years later.
Manifestations and meditations
Guided by the conjunction,
Aided by Samhain’s blue moon
When the veil is thinnest.
Thankful for the creatures,
Both big and small,
From the great blue whale,
To the tiny busy bee.
Thankful for the hugs that you give me,
For the memories you created with me.

Kady Blend


In time for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn,
My wife surprises me with an early gift, a telescope,
For which I thank her profusely.
It’s better than the one I used when the kids were small;
When between meteors, I bored them with stories of the gods.

Even so, it can’t undo age.
My astigmatism is worse; the floating cells in my eyes
Are like so many quotation marks that call everything into question;
My hands are as jittery as the hummingbirds I can’t bring into focus.
Even the rockets from Canaveral leave the earth with too much enthusiasm
For me to follow across the sky.

Thankfully, my wife is younger, with better eyes.
She easily centers the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn,
Never complaining when she has to refocus when I nudge the eyepiece.

When I aim at the moon,
She laughs and says there’s nothing in the finder.
I tell her, ‘That’s because I’m looking beyond the moon,
“For the stars whose explosions eons ago,
“Are finally coming into view,
“Those fiery deaths which created the elements that make up everything we know,
“From hummingbirds and rockets, to us--
“Everything for which thanks is due.”

Ron Yazinski