Gratitude Works: A Post Pandemic Poem

Gratitude works they say,
but that has sounded to me like
count your blessings
in 21st century clothes,
and didn’t we try
to end all that,
didn’t we see
that we are all half empty cups
sipping on what there is of our lives
with its grit and aftertaste,
isn’t it just what we swallow
to quench the thirst of our compromises,
again, and again?


I thought maybe
they don’t know anything about
the tragic collision
of the already and the not yet
that happens
at every single intersection
of every single hour
these days now that
my children are young men
and time has stamped righteously
on those days they admonish us
to savor.


I thought maybe
they don’t know anything about
what happened that summer
which was that some of us had the same
bad dream over and over
and others of us changed our Facebook logos
and went out to be among others
marching masked in the streets
to that same mournful drum
not all of us had ever
heard before.


I thought maybe they don’t know
how Myra’s mother died from Covid not after
she got to the hospital,
but because she did,
or about all the workers
in the meat factories for whom
there was no remote work but the same commute
on rutted roads
their tiny funerals
their bewildered children already
home from school.


But now, ever since this season turned
and we let our November campfires
-where we had tried to enjoy our blanketed company
from far away
but instead had fretted about politics in the dark burn down,
and we returned to these old rooms,
with the windows open,
ever since several
came back from
the virus despite that
so many,
so many,
did not, ever since
we realized we didn’t
have to live by lies alone


I began to try it.


And I decided I would not bow down
to those Gods of erasure and their tricky
amnesia-inducing schemes
their monetizing memes,
and it worked.


And I decided I would not forget
the baking and the card games
of our lonely winter
or community care
or decarceration
or mutual aid


I decided I wouldn’t go back
To the normal I had been waiting for.


Since then I have been saying thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Matilda Rose Cantwell

Matilda Rose Cantwell is serves as chaplain and director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts, where she lives with her spouse, two sons, and small dog. She has also worked as a clinical social worker, community organizer, and youth pastor in a diverse rural church. She has been writing for as long as she can remember, and currently composes sermons, pastoral letters, poems and lists of things to do. Her interests include transformative justice, interfaith dialogue, religious pluralism, and transporting her sons to soccer and track practices. She is an avid cyclist, an aspiring gardener, and an outdoors woman though she cannot read a map.

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