It has become my custom to read the poetry of Richard Wilbur the week of Thanksgiving. His work is suffused with gratitude—particularly the gratitude that comes from being awake and alert to the miracles that surround us every day.
I’m quite sure I’ve quoted before from Wilbur’s “Wedding Toast”; it’s one of my favorite poems.
St. John tells how, at Cana’s wedding feast,
The water-pots poured wine in such amount
That by his sober count
There were a hundred gallons at the least.
It made no earthly sense, unless to show
How whatsoever love elects to bless
Brims to a sweet excess
That can without depletion overflow.
Which is to say that what love sees is true;
That this world’s fullness is not made but found.
Life hungers to abound
And pour its plenty out for such as you.
What love sees is true. The cynic thinks he’s a realist, that he’s the only one who sees how things actually are. The cynic is full of it.
What love sees is true. Please don’t hear that as “the power of positive thinking” or “manifesting your desires” or “naming and claiming,” or any other mode of wish-fulfillment that purports that nice thoughts originating inside the wisher’s head can become real outside the wisher’s head if the wisher wishes hard enough. Actually, it’s the opposite. “The world’s fullness is not made but found.” The world’s fullness—at least the kind I’m talking about at the moment—is “out there.” Love and gratitude let it in.
“It was the song of doves begot the ear,” wrote Wilbur, “And not the ear that first conceived of sound.” Gratitude is a kind of receptivity, not so much a kind of invention.
I’ve been pondering a Wilbur poem called “A Plain Song for Comadre” (comadre is Spanish for godmother). It tells of a woman named Bruna Sandoval, who swept and scrubbed the church of San Ysidro every morning for seventeen years, “for love and in all weathers.” Wilbur writes,
Sometimes the early sun
Shines as she flings the scrubwater out, with a crash
Of grimy rainbows, and the stained suds flash
That’s the eye of gratitude at work, seeing in the dump of mop water “a crash of grimy rainbows.” The created world is a place of bounty and beauty. May we all have eyes to see it.
Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for you.