Starting the Year With Gratitude + Credo Poems
If you’re like me, you could come up with a big list of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you already have. I decided to start with a list of gratitudes. It seems like this is what I need right now, more than a syllabus of all the things I should do and change this year.
For probably everyone in the world, the last two years have been, at best, somewhat of a blur and, at worst, horribly traumatic. So let’s instead look at poems that praise the everyday goodness of life.
The first that comes to mind is Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which is probably my favorite poem title ever and is also the title of the book in which it appears. It’s a long poem full of humor and gravitas, little things and profound things, and one of my favorite parts is this:
Thank you to the woman barefoot in a gaudy dress
for stopping her car in the middle of the road
and the tractor trailer behind her, and the van behind it,
whisking a turtle off the road.
Thank you god of gaudy.
“The Joy Bringer” by Thomas Lux is another poem that catalogs gratitude, crediting a being called the joy bringer for many things including:
the chilled artesian water
spilling from a pipe only two inches above the ground,
from which you drank on your hands and knees,
on a few boards or branches, you bowed in the muck and drank
that sweet cold reaching-up.
You’ll find that poem in his wonderful book God Particles.
I also love this simple yet mighty poem in which the poet Donna Hilbert exclaims her credo, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a guiding belief or principle.” Notice the detail she includes to bring readers into the scenes of her life – scenes that could easily be part of our lives, too. Hilbert’s credo poem demonstrates its own kind of gratitude.
I believe in the Tuesdays
and Wednesdays of life,
the tuna sandwich lunches
and TV after dinner.
I believe in coffee with hot milk
and peanut butter toast,
Rose wine in summer
and Burgundy in winter.
I am not in love with holidays,
and weekends are just days
numbered six and seven,
though my love dozing over TV golf
while I work the Sunday puzzle
might be all I need of life
and all I ask of heaven.
After reading that poem, I was inspired to write my own credo poem.
—after Donna Hilbert
I believe in the wakings
and sleepings of life,
afternoon naps where I dream
I’m in Bali again in the Monkey Forest,
a palm-sized baby reaching
with hairless human fingers
for the banana in my daughter’s hand.
I count on slow boat rides
with friends on warm weekends
or the wave-smacks of pulling
kids on tubes and wakeboards.
Squeals skim the lake until
fireworks star the sky.
Then it’s the winding downs,
the heading upstairs. The sips of merlot,
while my love and I settle
into a BBC mystery,
shoulders touching, legs stretched
together on the ottoman.
I have faith in my daughter’s
phone calls from Singapore,
her toast crunching
while I’m turning off lights,
tucking in the dogs.
My night, her morning.
And she is rising.
I take comfort in believing
the Ubud healer’s words to me,
You’re healthy and know how to love.
—Karen Paul Holmes
What’s your favorite joyful or gratitude poem? Please share it by pasting it or linking to it in a comment below. Or… how about writing a credo poem of your own?
(Note, if you plan on submitting your unpublished poem to a journal, please be advised it will be considered previously published if you post it here. Publications like Every Day Poems, however, gladly welcome previously published work! A good poem is a good poem, after all. Worthy of being experienced again.)
Photo by Marco Nürnberger, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Karen Paul Holmes, 2022 Tweetspeak Poet Laura and author of No Such Thing as Distance. “Credo” by Donna Hilbert is from The Green Season (2nd edition, World Parade Books, 2012). Used with permission. (You can read Donna’s latest work in her brand new book Threnody.)