And the Thankful Seldom Shall Eat

A freshly grilled filet of flaky tilapia, russet Burbank potatoes roasted in herbs, and charred green asparagus spears across a yellow, fluted plate.

xxxxxxxxxThank you, O Lord, for this bounty.

xxxxxxxxxThank you, good people, who were taught to fish.

xxxxxxxxxThank you, farmers, who were taught to potato and asparagus farm, and to your farming teachers and farming forebears, and to Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and the other companies who employ you farmers.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the makers and sellers and distributors of farming equipment, such as Case New Holland and John Deere.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to you, Eagle Claw, Shakespeare, Berkley, and other makers and sellers of personal and commercial fishing equipment, and to High Liner and Clearwater and other companies that may have caught, and subsequently brought me, this flaky, nice, white fish.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to you, Stop and Shop, Safeway, Publix, Wegmans, Piggly Wiggly, and the hundreds of supermarket chains and thousands of private corner markets, like Dominick’s, who stock these types of goods and make them available to me for a sensible price.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to Wolseley Industrial, Amazon, YRC Worldwide, Schenker AG, and all the other wholesale and retail distributors who bring the useful products I employ to the stores where I can buy them.

xxxxxxxxxAnd thanks to the latest technologies of preservation, genetic modification, and irradiation that keep food safe for consumption as it travels long distances to get to us.

xxxxxxxxxAnd thanks to gasoline, without which no food would ever get to us. And thanks also to Exxon, Mobile, Chevron, and the other companies without whom our planet wouldn’t render us the means for gasoline.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to Pier One, the makers and sellers and distributors of this beautiful, yellow, fluted plate set.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the ancient inventors and modern disseminators of ceramic technology, which is fascinating, and helped us conceive of semiconductors, and to which this contemporary plate of mine owes its material existence.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the inventors and disseminators of the systems that provide my readily available and reasonably affordable light and heat – like SunSource and Airgas – so that it is comfortable and convenient for me to eat.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the developers (J.D. Salley and Associates), builders (Sheffield Construction), and landlords (First Property Services, and, in particular, Ashley Dawes) who have provided this sturdy and inexpensive apartment where I’m about to experience my evening meal, that is perhaps getting cold, in which case, I should be thankful for my microwave, and for Percy Spencer having the insight and wherewithal to invent the microwave, and for the scientists at Raytheon who died of cancer improving the microwave, and for the scientists at Tappan who were able to make the microwave more safe, and for Amana Corporation’s development, and for the ongoing chain of companies who obtained the technologies and rights for the worldwide manufacture, sale, and distribution of the more safe microwave.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to Ikea, and the other makers and sellers and distributors around and upon whose inexpensive furniture I arrange most days’ rather wholesome repasts.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to Liberty Tabletop, the makers and sellers and distributors and designers of the handy silverware I’m about to employ, to bring this modest banquet to my mouth.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to Pierre Burthier, the metallurgist who invented stainless steel technology, which is fascinating, and helped us conceive of better bridges and surgical instruments, and to which my handy silverware owes its material existence.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to mother nature, which has privileged me with the safest place at the apex of the food chain, but from where I must remember to be thankful, to the tilapia itself, and to the russet potatoes, and the green asparagus, and the oil of the olives, and to the leaves of the herbs.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the original cookers of food, whoever they were, who discovered that raising the internal temperature of much of what we put into our mouths not only improves its flavor but also allows us to eat more calories and therefore to evolve larger brains. And to the makers and sellers and distributors of Weber grills, who raised the internal temperatures of my tilapia and asparagus, and to the enterprising Amish people of Amana, whose oven raised the internal temperature of my potatoes.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the individuals who labor impossible hours in heat and sweat for little pay with nets outside their factory windows in case they would rather die than manufacture the basic goods needed to live in such a way that one is able to be comfortable enough to turn around and be thankful.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the individuals who gather, slaughter, and more or less humanely process the living things that I eat, so that I don’t have to do more than open a package to enjoy my sustenance.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the Clinton Corn Processing Company, for bringing high fructose corn syrup to humanity, so that so many may eat so much for so little money.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the doctors, insurance companies, and drug makers and distributors who protect and save us from diseases, including ones caused by feasting on high fructose corn syrup.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the system of organizations, people, activities, information, natural resources, raw materials, components, regulators, governments, and products involved in fulfilling my ongoing need for sustenance, and current desire for fish, potatoes, and asparagus, with a glass of tap water.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the planners and providers of the infrastructure that makes it possible for me to draw potable water, any time I want, straight from my tap.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the manufacturers and sellers and distributors and fixers of the pipes and sink and faucet that bring me drinking water, especially Pfister and Roto Rooter. And to my plumber, whose name is Dave.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the manufacturers and sellers and distributors of this drinking glass, who could have been anyone, since there are more than 12,000 drinking glass suppliers in the world.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the ancient inventors and modern disseminators of glass, which is fascinating, and which helped us conceive of new concepts in quantum physics, and to which my own drinking glass owes its material existence.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the inventors and disseminators of plastic, which is everywhere, and which we are using in some form or another, even as I speak, whether we’re aware of it or not.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the inventors and disseminators of you, O Lord, who is everywhere, whatever anyone calls you.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to my loving parents, and to their parents, and to theirs, since without them I would never have been here. And to your parents also, and to you, whoever you are, since without you the world would be less interesting and lonelier.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the universe, for exploding and spontaneously creating an orderly matrix of interaction which has become breathable and sustaining to life as we know it.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to every proton, electron, neutron, gluon, muon, lepton, boson, and quark in every atom in every molecule in every element in every isotope in every compound in every substance in every galaxy.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to the educators, employers, customers, countries, creditors, and others who may have been involved in my food, and whom I may have overlooked or forgotten.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to those whom I’ve thanked mistakenly, or for debatable reasons, thank you still and anyway.

xxxxxxxxxAnd to an emerging worldwide financial situation that might serve to make us better and happier members in a network of privileges where more people become able to have meals as healthy as the one I am finally about to begin.

 

***

 

Geoff Bouvier’s first book, Living Room, won the APR/Honickman Prize, and was published in 2005 by Copper Canyon. His second book, Glass Harmonica, appeared in 2011 from Quale Press. In 2009, he was the Roberta C. Holloway Lecturer in Poetry at the University of California-Berkeley. He earned an MFA from Bard College in 1997 and a PhD in poetry from Florida State in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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