Smoky Thanksgiving (Sing anyway)

Praying for the California fires

It's hard to sing a lusty thanksgiving hymn
with such smoke in the air,
smoke of trees and dust and houses,
cars and carpets, grass and cellos,
tires and flesh and pictures in their frames,
bodies of the dead and of the living, burned,
hard to take a deep breath and sing
breathing death.

But, child, the air has never been clear.
We breathe the ghosts of strangers' grief,
the breath of forests, the very air of death.
We breathe the dust of our ancestors,
the flesh of neighbors,
we breathe our enemies' cremains,
the pall of furnaces still hanging.
The ash of our bombings, dispersed like incense,
is on our lips as we sing
both alleluia and eleison.

It does not dull our song, this dust.
To breathe the fouled air of our common frailty,
the dust of our misdeeds and undoings,
the song of slaves, the hymns of the long march,
to take it in, to breathe it deep,
it doesn't clot our lungs,
but only adds the darker harmonies
to heartsick hallelujahs that we sing,
sing choking something back at times, but sing,
if only to remember
what we're choking back,
what we've lost, what we haven't lost,
sing, gasp, and wail and plead, and sing,
sing anyway.

November 20, 2018