Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Villanelle: Morning Anxiety; On Thanksgiving

Morning Anxiety

There’s burning in my belly when I wake.
I push my gut against my wife’s curled knees.
The pressure helps a little; I won’t break.

Anxiety rattles like a rattlesnake
Inside my abdomen, malignant tease.
There’s burning in my belly when I wake.

Who goes there? Who’s the monster on the lake?
Are you the one to fist my heart and squeeze?
The pressure helps a little; I won’t break.

It is not death. It’s just a minor quake.
It’s not a plot by Mephistopheles,
This burning in my belly when I wake.

This vague sense of free-falling I can’t shake.
I feel the swinging of my own trapeze.
The pressure helps a little; I can’t break.

If my only motivation is to escape
Anxiety, how petty my reprise!
There’s burning in my belly when I wake.
The pressure helps a little; I won’t break.

My wife has suggested, for my mental health, that I write about something beside myself today, and I am beside myself in choosing a topic, so let’s talk about Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the only true American holiday, excepting birthdays of notables like Washington and Martin Luther King. It also falls inevitably on a Thursday, so the rush to make all holidays occur on a Friday or Monday has been resisted, just as in Easter and Christmas. Even so, many people take Friday off, though not those in the retail business who must tend the biggest shopping day of the year, like my oldest daughter, who sells shoes.

Turkey is the traditional entree for Thanksgiving—and in my humble opinion, ham just doesn’t cut it, even with all those pretty cloves stuck into its sides. And how do you put cranberry jelly on ham? Other traditional fare includes candied yams, which I’ve never liked. Mashed potatoes are compulsory; green beans have been the staple vegetable in our family, usually with sliced almonds. Dressing is a must; we use Mrs. Cubbison’s. Above all the gravy makes the difference between a good and great dinner. My parents fought over the gravy, as have I with my partners. It’s important not to make it too watery, nor to choke it with too much flour into a paste. It should be a light brown and flow down the edges of your mashed potatoes easily. Nothing but pepper or salt should be allowed for seasoning the gravy. So much my culinary prejudices.

This year I am looking forward to a rare event; our three daughters and grandson will all be at my sister’s for Thanksgiving. So will my younger brother and his squeeze, as well as my sister’s in-laws. I can’t remember the last time we had so many Chaffins together. Non-Chaffins should be warned that they may not be able to get a word in edgewise, since Chaffins were born to talk. It’s not that our chatter isn’t interesting, it’s just that it doesn’t leave much space for comment—if you’re not quick as a Chaffin. Verbally my family of origin would be hard pressed to be exceeded; my younger brother is a copywriter, my sister is a lawyer, and I am a poet. My older brother, regrettably, will not be there, but he is less verbal and more visual, having long been a creative director in the advertising business. In this mix will be three dogs as well; my sister’s two dachshunds and Kenyon.

I look forward to supervising/babysitting my grandson, a very active and self-directed boy who so far does not display much interest in verbal skills. I know he’ll be OK because I see in his play that he is adept in spatial relations and imagination. I don’t know what Sponge Bob is doing, but I know that Jacob regularly positions him in different places with different companions, and talks with them all.

Without sharing specifics, five of the six Chaffins to be present are on medications for mood disorders, so I don’t feel all alone. We have beaten the nursing home crowd to the punch, having had the pleasure of discussing our medications freely in the prime of life, long before a lack of other topics at the rest home required it.

In any event, whatever my mood, I have been looking forward to this great gathering. The joy of seeing all my daughters at once is palpable, and as they are mainly grown, I will also have the pleasure of watching them relate to others as adults—at least I hope so.

(No rating today, as Kathleen suggested; there’s still my villanelle for the dark side.)

Craig Erick



  1. "We have beaten the nursing home crowd to the punch, having had the pleasure of discussing our medications freely in the prime of life, long before a lack of other topics at the rest home required it."

    So, you can talk cocktails over cocktails, perhaps?

    Family is always a double-edged sword for me. Good to see them, good to get away from them again for another year.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Best wishes.


  3. Sounds like you'll have a great time, I'm drooling over your Thanksgiving dinner menu!

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