Rachel Hadas

Thanksgiving Near Cape Coast & Pine Cones: April 2020
January 22, 2021 Hadas Rachel

Thanksgiving Near Cape Coast
Churning along through viscous mud,
earth thick and rich and red as blood,
nine people in a mini-bus,
where are we heading, each of us?
Inside, the toddler with her screen,
outside, the maze of violent green,
my lipstick melting in the heat,
new word your student taught us – yeet
generations packed together,
grandfather, grandchild, mother, father,
an entourage yet each alone
with fever dreams of Malarone.
Tropical rainstorm. Deepening light.
The van galumphs along towards night,
Bumping past palms to Brenu Beach,
The creamy surf just out of reach.
Clouds clear. Soft breezes from the sea
Ruffle over history.
Should we sit still and contemplate
the living legacy of hate?
Watching the child dance in the sand,
should we strain to understand
the past’s dark passages, or not?
The moon comes up. We’ve lost the plot.
The surf advancing purrs and growls.
My leashed dream tiger paces; prowls.



Pine Cones: April 2020
Absolute not knowing.
And knowing we do not know.
The revolving searchlight hides
behind still leafless trees.
If my granddaughter were here,
she and I would scour this path for pine cones
and pop each eloquent synecdoche,
each compact nugget, into our baskets.
Alone I gather cones
and back home throw a few onto the fire.
After seventy years, most of them lucky,
it is so easy to forget the rough
patches in one’s own life,
let alone how hard things have been forever:
displacement, war, starvation, disease,
the guttering flame of hope, loss upon loss.
We forget. We do not know
until uninvited knowledge flashes
not as recollection but as fear.
The searchlight revolves.
Yet sometimes its beam, unanchored, strays
not to a place of safety, never that,
but out of the mind’s reach,
so that for a time fear can’t take hold.
It is so easy to forget.
I meant to gather fears
and bring them home and toss them into the fire.
But climbing this cool hill
in the hush before the whenever arrival of spring –
only a breath of wind in the pines
and the birds waiting –
I lose the fear. Is it hiding
behind that slim young tree?
It is nowhere to be seen.
It may pounce. It may strike.
It will pounce. It will strike. And then float free.
Absolute not knowing.
And knowing we do not know.

Rachel Hadas is the author of many books of poetry, essays, and translations, mostly recently poetry collection “Ghost Guest” (2023) and her translation of  Book 16 of Nonnus’s “Tales of Dionysus”, a rollicking epic from the diaspora of late antiquity (2022).  She recently retired from Rutgers University-Newark, where for many years she was Board of Governors Professor of English.