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Thursday, November 25, 2021


by Rebekah Wolman

A painting done in 1995 by Karen Rinaldo, of Falmouth, Mass., depicts what many Wampanoag tribal leaders and historians say is one of the few accurate portrayals of “The First Thanksgiving 1621,” between the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims. —Dana Hedgpath, “This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.” The Washington Post, November 4, 2021

We’ve read the picture books about the harvest feast we call the first Thanksgiving—
no mention that for the Wampanoag it was a cursed Thanksgiving.
How many ways to brine and roast a turkey? Ask the food editors
what’s the virtue of this excess in which we’ve been immersed, Thanksgiving.
Some kids dressed up as Pilgrims; others wore construction paper feathers.
What did they learn about the Wampanoag when they rehearsed Thanksgiving?
In COVID quarantine, we roasted Cornish hens for one or two. Instead
of hand-drawn place cards we had names in Zoom squares at our dispersed Thanksgiving.
Two years after settling on Wampanoag land, the Pilgrims saw no rain
for two long months. Two months of fast and prayer and then a cloudburst Thanksgiving.
Family tensions linger, wrongs go unredressed, pain unspoken. Food and drink
are plentiful but other hungers go unsated at lips-pursed Thanksgiving.
What I’m asking, settlers’ descendants and other white folk, is what if we returned
ill-gotten gains, atoned, and then observed—a people reimbursed—Thanksgiving?

Author's Note: This poem was written in the shelter of a house built and bought and sold multiple times on stolen land...the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone people, the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula.

Rebekah Wolman is a retired educator living in San Francisco. A previous contributor to The New Verse News with poems also appearing recently in Limp Wrist, she is a 2021 winner of Cultural Daily’s Jack Grapes Poetry Prize.