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15 Thanksgiving Poems to Keep You Entertained All the Way to Grandma's House

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An old poetry professor of mine always used to say that one great thing about poems is that, so often, you get a poem before you really understand it. It resonates when you haven't anticipated it to, or creates a stillness where there wasn't one before. It can make you feel reflective. And doesn't Thanksgiving, a whole holiday dedicated to reflection and thoughtfulness and being with others, do the same thing?

Read these poems while you're traveling, or between turkey bastings, or share them around the table, or use one for a toast, or say them aloud if grace isn't your thing. Some of them are about Thanksgiving, some of them are about thanksgiving, and some of them float around the holiday's edges—these poems are as sometimes-idyllic, sometimes-painful, sometimes-wacky, sometimes-touching, as Thanksgiving is:

Photo by Rocky Luten
  • "Family Reunion" by Maxine Kumin

    Benign and dozy from our gluttonies,
    the candles down to stubs, defenses down,
    love leaking out unguarded the way
    juice dribbles from the fence when grounded
    by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe,
    how eloquent, how beautiful you seem!

  • "In Harvest" by Sophie Jewitt


    A goldfinch dangles from a tall,
    Full-flowered yellow mullein; all
    The world seems turning blue and gold.

Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • "Thanksgiving for Two" by Marjorie Saiser

    We are the feast, plenty of years,
    arguments. I’m thinking the whole bundle of it
    rolls out like a white tablecloth.

  • "Aimless Love" by Billy Collins

    This is the best kind of love, I thought,
    without recompense, without gifts,

Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • "Butter" by Elizabeth Alexander

    ...When I picture
    the good old days I am grinning greasy
    with my brother, having watched the tiger
    chase his tail and turn to butter.

  • "Thanksgiving" by Tim Nolan

    (whatever they are)—wrapped up as
    small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
    thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles

  • "Oysters" by Seamus Heaney

    The frond-lipped, brine-stung
    Glut of privilege
    And was angry that my trust could not repose
    In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
    Leaning in from sea.

Photo by James Ransom
  • "Onions" by William Matthews

    How easily happiness begins by
    dicing onions.

  • "Thanks" by W.S. Merwin

    with the cities growing over us
    we are saying thank you faster and faster
    with nobody listening we are saying thank you
    we are saying thank you and waving
    dark though it is

Photo by Nikole Herriot
  • "The Traveling Onion" by Naomi Shihab Nye

    When I think how far the onion has traveled
    just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
    all small forgotten miracles,

  • "Perfect for Any Occasion" by Alberto Rios

    I tell you everything is great, says a pie,

    Great, and fun, and fine.
    And you smell nice, too, someone says.

Photo by James Ransom
  • "Potato Soup" by Daniel Nyikos

    I set up my computer and webcam in the kitchen
    so I can ask my mother’s and aunt’s advice
    as I cook soup for the first time alone.

  • "The Bean Eaters" by Gwendolyn Brooks

    Two who are Mostly Good.
    Two who have lived their day,

Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • "Home is so Sad" by Philip Larkin

    Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
    The music in the piano stool. That vase.

  • "Eating the Bones" by Ellen Bass

    They use up love, they swallow
    every dark grain,
    so at the end there’s nothing left,
    a scant pile of splinters
    on the empty white plate.

Share your favorite Thanksgiving poems, verses, songs, and stories in the comments!

Tags: thanksgiving poems, food poems, thanksgiving