This World Is Not Altogether Bad

Thanksgiving at a homeless shelter


Mike Hazard, a Carleton hall mate my freshman year, is allowing me to share this year’s Thanksgiving poem. It appears in his collection The World Is Not Altogether Bad, a series of portraits of people on society’s margins. We meet Vietnam vets, alcoholics, dementia patients, cancer patients, and homeless people, as well as friends and family. Given the subject matter, one might expect the book to be depressing, but in fact each life blossoms under Mike’s treatment.

In “Blessed for Life,” the speaker picks up a random hitchhiker, not unlike how he picks up subjects for his collection. He never knows what lies in store when he makes a new acquaintance. In this case, he receives a Thanksgiving gift that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.

The man, who needs a ride for a Dorothy Day center for the homeless, looks and sounds like an Old Testament prophet. He is “jazzed, jazzed” about a Thanksgiving feast at the Dorothy Day Center for the homeless, which leads to a heartfelt declaration: “This world is not altogether bad.”

Grim though life may appear at times, his understated words hit with the force of divine revelation. The poet sees heartfelt gratitude in its purest form. He feels “blessed for life.”

Blessed for Life

A wild-looking man I don’t know
from Adam begged a ride from the PO
to the Dorothy Day Center. He’s jazzed,
jazzed about a Thanksgiving feast
With a shock of hair like a thundercloud,
he looks like an old Testament prophet.
He got out and paused next to the window.
Standing so I can’t see his face, I was
blessed for life when a rich voice said,
“This world is not altogether bad.”

Previous Thanksgiving Posts
2018 Joy Harjo: At This Table We Give Thanks
2017 Kahlil Gibran: A Time for Laughter: Sharing of Pleasures
2016 James Joyce: Thanksgiving in the Age of Trump
2015 Paul Laurence Dunbar: We Come to Pay Our Thanks to Thee
2014 Hilaire Belloc: America’s Obsession with Pie
2013 E. V. Wright: When Father Carves the Turkey
2012 William Wordsworth: All Which We Behold Is Full of Blessings
2011 John Milton: The Most Delicious Feast Ever Served
2010 The Pearl Poet: Double Sized Servings and Sundry Fish
2009 John Milton: Praise God for the American Dream

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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