We just celebrated Thanksgiving, where we express gratitude to whomever or whatever for the bounty of our lives. And we’re moving into those late December holidays Chanuka and Christmas that are about miracles and faith.
We’ll begin with a poem that moves from food to faith, “A Pair of Skeptics Attend the All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast” by Kathy Mangan, from her book Taproot that Passager published in 2019.
DO OTHERS/SEE JESUS/IN YOU
inquires the sign in front of Union Chapel.
Doubters, we exchange a glance, but
we’re hungry, and the automatic portals
fold open, so we follow arrows
to Fellowship Hall and pay twelve bucks
to a man in plaid flannel at the cash box,
who points to the stacked plastic trays
and steaming stainless vats, urging,
we station ourselves at the end of a long
papered table, our places readied
with utensils in a waxed sleeve,
then line up with the locals to pile
our plates with pancakes & eggs &
bacon & sausage & biscuits & gravy
& potatoes. Through the pass-through,
we watch cooks in Kitchen Angel aprons
flip flapjacks and punctuate jokes
with a wave of a spatula.
our stacks with syrup from a shared
pitcher. I study the communicants
at other tables – bearded vets in KOREA
caps and POW tees, the teen spooning
scrambled eggs in turn for a stout baby
and a hunched granny, a mother prodding
her son, Did you thank your sister for serving
you more orange juice? and the boy’s complaisant
yes before he sips from the offered cup.
to a curled sheet tacked to a bulletin board:
Sign Here if You Love God and Jesus,
I note with bemusement the scrimpy list
in kids’ loopy signatures. Jesus was a good guy,
you say, forking a triangle of buckwheat. It’s God
I don’t trust. We’re not novices; you tolerated
Sunday school till you were ten, and I relished
The Parables of Jesus filmstrips unspooling
in a dim church basement,
static but ravishing frames of a blond Christ
as my teacher intoned captions to the lesson
of the saved lost sheep, the tale of the tiny
mustard seed that sprouted into a sprawling
sanctuary for birds. I gave it all up
in sixth grade, when – taken aback
by my question – the youth minister
affirmed, Of course Presbyterians
believe in Hell!
We scrape the uneaten remains
of breakfast into the garbage, set
our dishes in a tub. I confess
I’m full, but – ever prodigal – I know
I want more.
. . .
Kathy Mangan’s poem “A Pair of Skeptics Attend the All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast” from her book Taproot.
And here’s another poem about that hunger for faith, Harry Bauld’s poem “Faith” from his book The Uncorrected Eye that Passager published in 2018.
Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind
having some, neither shame nor doubt,
like a monk alone in a stone cell
with a cup of tea, the memory
of brown rice in a bowl
containing all there is of the universe,
the modest means, the light tread
of an empty sandal on the cool stone
monastery floor, the swish
of hem in a corridor, the prayer
for something larger, the wish
to be something smaller, a prayer for music
to shrink the air into a sweet ball
I won’t need to taste because I am full
of its emptiness, eyes that are not coy
with desire but black in their frankness
and don’t intrude, do not presume,
the steam of tea warming
into the sweetest taste on earth –
the humility of a swan’s bow, the shy arch of the neck
like a question the lake asks of the sky
in the sudden snow this May morning
in Vermont, two inches
that chill the red flush of the universe,
a cold fire to believe in.
. . .
“Faith” by Harry Bauld from his book The Uncorrected Eye.
To buy Kathy Mangan’s book Taproot or Harry Bauld’s The Uncorrected Eye or to learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to passagerbooks.com. You can download Burning Bright—the podcast, not the anthology—from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.
Before we end this episode of Burning Bright, here’s Passager co-editor Kendra Kopelke:
“As you may or may not know, Passager is a small literary press with a big mission—and it’s even more difficult now to raise money. But we really need it to be able to continue. If you could make a donation today, it would mean a lot to ensuring Passager’s future. We are doing everything we can to stay lean, but we still have expenses. Even a small donation can go a long way to sustaining us. Go to passagerbooks.com and click on “donate” at the top of the page.”
It’s the season of giving. We hope you’ll give to passager.
Due to the limitations of online publishing, poems may not appear in their original formatting.