Thanksgiving poems for family and friends

Thanksgiving is America’s harvest festival — a time to acknowledge the help of family and friends, and a reminder of what a gift it is to be alive. It’s a day to overindulge in the here and now, even as we reflect on the past.

In other words, it’s the perfect holiday for poetry!

While a barn full of winter stock and a home overrun with family and friends does not fit with our popular conception of the poet as solitary brooder, these poems show that the occasion has provided poets — from Harriet Maxwell Converse in the 19th century to Elizabeth Alexander in the 21st — with plenty of food for thought. Whether you’re looking for a pre-meal toast, a scrap of American history, or a late night conversation starter, these poems should provide ample stuffing.


A Thanksgiving to God, for his House

By Robert Herrick

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

By James Weldon Johnson

The Thanksgivings

By Harriet Maxwell Converse


By Edgar Albert Guest



By Elizabeth Alexander

Family Reunion

By Maxine W. Kumin

Perhaps the World Ends Here

By Joy Harjo


By Albert Goldbarth

Thanksgiving Magic

By Rowena Bastin Bennett


By Bruce Guernsey


By Eamon Grennan


My Triumph

By John Greenleaf Whittier

Signs of the Times

By Paul Laurence Dunbar

Thanksgiving Day

By L. Maria Child

The Garden of Proserpine

By Algernon Charles Swinburne

The Pumpkin

By John Greenleaf Whittier

When the Frost is on the Punkin

By James Whitcomb Riley


By C.K. Williams

The Gift Outright

By Robert Frost

To Autumn

By John Keats

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“….if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”

NATO-Russia Tensions Rise After Turkey Downs Jet [The New York Times]

Two big powers supporting different factions in the Syrian civil war clashed with each other on Tuesday when Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane that Turkey said had strayed into its airspace. The tensions immediately took on Cold War overtones when Russia rejected Turkey’s claim and Ankara responded by asking for an emergency NATO meeting, eliciting more Russian anger and ridicule. After the meeting, the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, called for “calm and de-escalation” and said the allies “stand in solidarity with Turkey.”


– Navigator of Downed Russian Plane Says He Was Given No Warning. [The New York Times]

The Russian navigator who parachuted out of a warplane shot down by Turkey said on Wednesday that there had been no warning before a missile slammed into the aircraft, giving him and the pilot no time to dodge the missile. The navigator, Capt. Konstantin V. Murakhtin, was rescued by special forces troops who followed his radio beacon and negotiated his release from the insurgents who were holding him.

– Nato and UN seek calm over Turkish downing of Russian jet. [The Guardian]

In signs of deepening divisions between the two countries, Russia warned its citizens not to go on holiday in Turkey and its defence ministry cut off contacts with its Turkish counterpart. On Tuesday night, its general staff confirmed that one of the pilots of the downed jet had been killed and a marine died while on a rescue mission. The fate of the jet’s second pilot was unclear.

Speaking before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi, Putin said: “Our military is doing heroic work against terrorism … but the loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t describe it in any other way. We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today.”

– Russian and Turkish ministers to meet over downed jet. []

The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey have spoken to each other about Tuesday’s downing of the Russian military jet, deciding to meet in the coming days to discuss the situation on Turkey’s border with Syria. Describing the shooting down of the jet Tuesday as a “planned act”, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov said the incident could not go without reaction, according to news wires.

– Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet was a confrontation waiting to happen. [The Economist]

The shooting down by Turkey of a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber on Tuesday morning—the first time a NATO member has admitted bringing down a Russian warplane since the end of the cold war—was in many ways a confrontation waiting to happen. Syria has become a messy battleground with outside powers supporting different proxy factions and, increasingly, intervening directly in the country’s civil war. Russian, American and French air forces have all bombed targets in Syria with worryingly little co-ordination. Turkey, in particular, has repeatedly cautioned Russia to keep its planes on the Syrian side of the border, after an intrusion by a Russian jet in October. While Russia is supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey has made little secret of wanting to see him gone and of supporting Sunni rebel groups.

– Russian warplane shot down at Syria-Turkey border. [] [Live Updates]

In its assessment of the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey, NATO has “once again failed the exam on objectivity,” Aleksandr Grushko, Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, said.”We saw what we’ve seen too often in recent years: everything that NATO countries do is right and can somehow be understood [and] justified; NATO believes that [it] is the supreme judge in all matters of security,” Grushko told TV channel Rossiya 1.

– Turkey shot down a Russian warplane. Why it would happen and why it matters, explained. []

When you ask Russia experts why Moscow would send its warplanes buzzing NATO airspace in Europe, they’ll often point out that Russia’s military is much weaker than America’s and NATO’s — and Moscow knows it. And indeed this military imbalance is something you hear Russian defense officials bring up constantly; this fact of their relative weakness is world-shaping for them. So one way Russia has dealt with its relative weakness is by being more provocative, by demonstrating its willingness to raise the stakes and toe ever closer up to the line of outright conflict. The intended message of such flights isn’t that Russia will deliberately start a war with the West — it won’t — but rather that it is more willing to take on risk, so if the West doesn’t want the headache it should just back down.

The underlying message of the Neighborhood

“I can still hear him signing off his show similar to the way he concluded his letter to Amy Melder: “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” Some have suggested that this message sought to instill children with a sense of self-importance, but to believe that is to fundamentally misunderstand Fred Rogers. At the core of Rogers’ mission was the paradoxical Christian belief that the way to gain one’s life is to give it away.” (SL Atlantic)

“Does Floyd always have to die?? You’re heartless, Steve.”

Steve Meretzky has released a treasure trove of (minimally redacted) Infocom working documents. Written from 1981 to 1987, these internal documents were instrumental to Jason Scott when producing his documentary GET LAMP and have now been released on the Internet Archive. They include business memos, playtester notes, design documents, mockups by their packaging designer, and a tantalizing look into the elements of games that got cut or never fully developed. Stanford University has the originals.

How to Show Your Mammoth

For fourteen years, Snuffleupagus was the urban legend of Sesame Street — Big Bird’s even bigger friend only ever interacted with him, and their attempts to convince the adults of the Street always ended in humorous failure. But then the writers realized that Snuffleupagus needed to be seen.

The thing that changed their minds was national coverage of child sexual abuse claims:

The fear was that if we represented adults not believing what kids said, they might not be motivated to tell the truth. That caused us to rethink the storyline: Is something we’ve been doing for 14 years—that seemed innocent enough—now something that’s become harmful?

And so, thirty years ago this week, for the first time, the adults of Sesame Street came face-to-face with the mammoth presence of Aloysius Snuffleupagus.


I have a “blog-pal” who is a retired physician who commented today that after a dearth of entries during this past summer, I now seem to be back to snuff with stuff. I suppose four in four days is more than alarming but good doctor, don’t get used to it.

I want to offer some personal thoughts about the USCCB meeting just concluded as I had two hours on a quite turbulent flight back from Baltimore to do little more than think about it. The Francis vision of Church will require much more time to morph from the John Paul II view of Church just as it took the late Pope a decade to partially morph from the Paul VI/ II Vatican Council view of Church. No one should be alarmed at this. If anything, those looking to a more responsive, less rigid approach to ecclesial life need to take heart that for an organization which normally moves at glacial speed, Francis has the machinery of the present Church running in overdrive. He is moving from “monarchy” to “synodality” with an alacrity and rapidity unseen and unheard of for centuries. Structural change is at the top of his agenda and then it will be followed by personal and personnel change. That the need for this has not yet reached the episcopal conference of the United States was apparent to me this week in Baltimore. We discussed, acted, voted like we have for the thirty-five years I have been attending these meetings. The Conference remains largely unchanged even though the times, they are a-changing.

So what will it take to bring the structure in line with the present Pope’s vision? That one is simple for me to answer, a new cast of bishops willing to acknowledge that we need not lose the faithful in the numbers we are losing while holding the line on clearly definitive doctrinal teaching. Let me give an amateur’s example of what I am thinking and writing about. When we were kids we learned that the seven sacraments were “outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace.” Right?

We spoke a lot at this meeting about the sacrament of marriage. Each sacrament consists of two parts: matter and form. Traditionally, matter consists of something tangible like water in Baptism, chrism in confirmation, etc. In marriage the matter is the man and woman and the form is their exchange of consent (the vows) in the presence of the Church’s minister. Where in the Gospels does one find the text of Christ’s words or even his actions instituting marriage (the power to forgive sins like the institution of the Eucharist, by way of example is very clear)?  Indeed, with his mother Jesus attended a wedding at Cana and was a great help to the families of the newlyweds. In fact both the understanding and teaching of marriage as a sacrament evolved over a long period of time and centuries passed after the death of Christ before the theology of marriage as a sacrament became full-blown and a part of Church doctrine.

Now before my critics take aim, I also need to point out that in at least two instances  in the Gospel Jesus made it very clear that multiple marriages were wrong and that living with another person’s spouse and having sex with them was also a violation of the sixth commandment. So there is central teaching (which I do not believe will change) that sacramental marriage is between one man and one woman. But Jesus did not envision an annulment process for either his time or the future. Our disciplinary practices have evolved.

Today’s argument in the Church is partly between those who believe that the indissolubility of marriage reigns absolute overall and allows of few to no exceptions and those who are trying to get into the mind of Jesus and ask what would he do if he were to encounter this moment?

The Catholic leadership (Cardinals) in Germany argues for a compassionate response to a growing problem. The Church leadership in Africa says that one of the things which works well on their continent is marriage so please don’t introduce a theology and/or praxis which would weaken what they enjoy and is largely a first world issue.

The bishops’ conference of the United States (Orioles) is struggling between towing the line and formulating a compassionate response to those whose marriages have failed. There is a division of the house. The same struggle can be said to be true for matters like same-sex civil marriages and a number of other “hot button” issues. It is simply a “battle” (used loosely by myself) between doctrine and accompaniment with Pope Francis prodding us to embrace the latter which is by no means easy.

So, in conclusion, Catholics should not hit any panic buttons from what did or did not happen this week in Baltimore. Approximately two-hundred and thirty-five good bishops from various personal histories and theological education met to try to find a path through which many are considering a “swamp”. The pendulum is swinging again towards the center which makes some of us older people nervous but which gives courage and comfort to a younger generation.  The Conference is not yet ready to begin to debate the important issues for the future and for myself, for the moment, I far prefer waiting to retrenching.


Medical marijuana supporters score another big fundraising month in October

The committee backing an amendment to legalize medical marijuana had another big fundraising month in October, largely on the back of its chairman, Orlando lawyer John Morgan.

Morgan contributed $237,978 of the $337,292 raised last month by United for Care-People United for Medical Marijuana. Regular donor Barbara Stiefel wrote the committee another check for $40,000 in October. Since 2013 Stiefel, whose father founded Stiefel Laboratories, has given the committee $1.1 million.

Richard Shevelow, an engineer from Carver, Massachusetts, wrote the committee a $10,000 check, and Sarasota pharmaceutical company AltMed gave $5,000. The rest of the committee’s 771 contributions came mostly from individuals donating $100 or less.

Signature gathering firm PCI Consultants was once again the recipient of most of that money. The group got four checks from United for Care last month for $225,303 total. As of Wednesday, the Florida Division of Elections shows 348,603 valid signatures for the amendment, just over half the 683,149 needed to secure a slot on the ballot.

United for Care aims to qualify for the ballot by the end of 2015, so PCI can expect at least another couple of months of six-figure income from the committee as it gathers the remaining 334,546 signatures.

Much of the rest of the committee’s $291,327 in October expenditures went to county supervisors of elections for signature verification services; Miami-based Grassroots Connections got $7,566 for consulting services and International Press was paid $5,000 for shipping expenses.

Qualifying for the ballot by the end of the year will likely require a lot more of Morgan’s money. Heading into November, the committee had just under $30,000 on-hand.

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Raw Art, post-circus physical acts of beauty, grace and skill

Forget about circus. Forget about glittering costumes, caged animals and clowns with their old hat jokes. Circus can be alternative…

This is the vision of Ukrainian director Taras Pozdnyakov with his Kiev-based circus project Raw Art, “post-circus,” a response to the large-scale blockbusters, such as Cirque du Soleil and Franco Dragone. Acts focus on individual and small group performances, such as the award-winning structure-free gymnastic performance by the brothers Iroshnikov, and solo performances by Sergey Timofeev and Alexander Koblikov. There is a trio of jugglers, choreographed jumprope routines, ring work and much more on YouTube and Vimeo.