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Thanksgiving in the Chinese Garden

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Lifetime Learning is pleased to share the creative talents of UVA faculty poets. Stephen Cushman, Robert C. Taylor Professor in the Department of English, University of Virginia, gives us his poem, “Thanksgiving in the Chinese Garden.”

We welcome your comments below.


Thanksgiving in the Chinese Garden

                   They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had

                                            William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation

In the Garden of Flowing Fragrance
below the Terrace that Invites the Mountains
                      and the Terrace of Six Jade Mirrors

below the Bridge of Strolling in Moonlight
and Lotus Cascade from the Court of Pure Scents

          pine and bamboo
          and of plum too

thatchers rethatch the rotten roof
          of Pavilion for Washing Thoughts Away

                      If love can cover  

characters on the teahouse door, “It enters the mouth,
                      And a hundred cares vanish,”
top to bottom right to left

          the way the English moved across

But read the way the English read
the west coast looks like a rounded bracket
                                                                                       opening parenthesis

                      (Turkey was an eastern bird

If love can cover a multitude of

thanks for asking thanks for your patience
thanks for sharing thanks in advance

                                            thanks to Grant for starving out Vicksburg
thanks to Meade for mowing down Pickett

thanks to Lincoln for feeling thankful
              and a Thursday off every November

If love can cover a multitude of sins

            against the Pequot Narragansett
                    Wampanoag or out here

with fires burning on Ana’s tantrums

Chumash Tongva
                                hunters where the scholars walk

trailing through the Chinese Garden
              footsteps of a goddess traipsing

over the Bridge of Verdant Mists
over the Terrace of Parasol Trees

then maybe there is hope

          for Mary from Leiden age four and making
          the ocean crossing bearing eight children
          Thomas Mary Sarah Isaac
          Elkanah Eleazar Lydia Fear

                        Did Fear have a nickname?)

            last surviving
            Mayflower passenger

                                                  Three Good Friends      bamboo pine
                                                  of the Coldest Season   and don’t forget plum
If love
          can’t cover

          the Peak of Fallen Petals
          the Tower of Lingering Clouds

                              then what’s to become
                              of Mary times nine
                              great grandmother mine

and willow thoughts unwashed away?

Copyright © 2019 Stephen Cushman.  All rights reserved.