“He's plotting a way to journey home at last; he's never at a loss.” (Odyssey, Book 1, l. 237)
We reprise this post about a special holiday episode of the Poetry Spoken Here podcast that examines poetry's long relationship with the themes of family and home.
The program opens with a reflection on how those themes are used in Homer's Odyssey, the second oldest work in the western canon. At around the 8 minute mark, you'll hear Charlie Rossiter's conversation with Mazziotti Gillan about her work reflecting on her upbringing in an immigrant family.
Here is a poem of Maria's from The Place I Call Home, that reminds us of the many things we forget to be thankful for every day - and we might remember on this day.
Forgetting to Give Thanks
I watch the public TV program on Rwanda
and the water they are lifting out of polluted
wells to drink, though there’s a cholera epidemic.
It is the only water they have and they draw
a pail of it out of the well. The water is brown
and thick and muddy. The emaciated man
walks away with the pail of water.
Several children walk behind him.
They stop at the side of the road
and the man lets each of them drink
from a battered metal dipper.
In my house I forget to give thanks
for the clean water that pours
out of the kitchen faucet, the water
in the bathrooms, hot and plentiful,
for long showers and baths.
We forget how much of the world does not have
what we have and even I forget, I who grew up
in an apartment heated by a coal stove. The only warm
place was at the kitchen table set up close to the stove.
The bedrooms were frigid. My mother would warm
the beds with bricks she heated in the oven
and then we’d rush in and jump into bed.
The house had no insulation and no storm windows,
so the windows would develop a coating of ice
in patterns I thought were beautiful. We bathed in water
that my mother heated on the stove. My mother washed
our clothes on a tin washboard.
Today, with my house full of appliances—stove,
refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine,
dryer, air conditioners, TV’s and as much
hot or cold water as I want, I forget to be grateful,
and am only reminded for a minute when I see
those people in Rwanda who are drinking water
so filthy it will probably kill them. Or when I think
of my mother and all the work she did, carting
buckets of coal, stoking the fire, boiling water
to keep us warm.
by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from The Place I Call Home
The Poetry Spoken Here podcast home page
Maria's Official Site is at MariaGillan.com. Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.