Michael Marks

THE TREASURES WE DON’T OWN

The kitchen air was heavy with the smell of pumpkin pie,
and though my odds seemed poor at best I thought that I would try,
to steal a bite before the turkey from the oven came
and thought that I had pulled it off until she said my name.

“Just looking babe,” I straightened up and struggled to begin,
betrayed at once by angel’s eyes above a devil’s grin.
“Oh really?” she so soft replied, a towel drawing quick,
that I could naught but dash before I felt its sudden flick.

So in defeat I ambled to the refuge of the den,
amid the jibes of relatives who knew where I had been,
and saw my son a-sprawl among the paper on the floor,
creating works of art to hang upon the freezer door.

I half expected pilgrims or an Indian with maize,
some symbol of the holiday beneath his fervent gaze;
instead I saw a pile of junk he’d penciled in with care--
if it had any meaning I was clearly unaware.

As though he sensed my question he looked up with shining smile,
and said “It’s for Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking for a while.”
He pointed to the drawing now with very somber tone
“They’re someone else’s treasures that I’m thankful I don’t own.”

“I think you’ve got that backwards son,” I said, my head inclined.
“A treasure is, well, special, like the best thing you could find.”
The look that crossed his face came from his mother, not from me –-
“I know that dad,” he huffed, “here, take a look and you will see.”

“I saw a wooden crutch like this last week on our TV;
some homeless kid in Baghdad lost a leg below the knee.
His single prize possession was that twisted wooden steed--
I’ve never kicked a landmine, so a crutch I just don’t need.”

“A chunk of rock like this is something else I wouldn’t crave,
it’s all those kids in Kurdi-something had to mark a grave
they dug by hand when both their folks got blown up by a bomb--
But every day when I come home, I know you’re here with mom.”

“I don’t need body armor that our soldiers dearly prize,
and just as well,” he whispered, “they don’t make it in my size.
And we don’t have to worry ‘bout a roadside IED,
so I can ride my bike to school and not a big Humvee.”

And on he went through every item drawn upon the page,
expressing thanks to live so far from combat’s bitter rage;
And thankful too that not another day could he remember,
when fear came to America like it did that September.

“I figure that the things we treasure here,” he seemed to muse
“are really cool because we have a lot from which to choose.
But folks who live where wars are fought, they don’t have near as much,
So treasure there might be no more than just a wooden crutch.”

I found the lesson simple and the reasoning profound;
when fight we must, to take the battle off to foreign ground
by those who stand in jeopardy to keep the wolves at bay,
and shield our homes and families from terror and dismay.

So now upon Thanksgiving’s meal, we gather hand in hand,
and first among our blessings count the heroes of the land,
who guard us all and keep us safe at price of flesh and bone,
and give us chance to say our thanks for treasures we don’t own.

G’day Tony,

I hope this finds you healthy and in fine spirits!

I just put the final polish to what for many may seem a non-traditional holiday to associate with our military; Thanksgiving. Odd in a way as the very nature of the day is to reflect upon the many things for which we are thankful – not the least of which the freedom to assemble or pray as we each see fit. I wanted to take a very different approach than I had with earlier poems and in this case reflected on the idea that those who live amid the horrors of war often have so little that their greatest treasure might be what we view as a modest or even worthless possession. It is a reversal of sorts, but I think it works. I’d love to know what you think.

All the best my friend,
most faithfully,
Michael
March 7, 2006