Thank You!

Thank-you letter in a pile of recycling

Gratitude has become fashionable,
or anyway recommending it has.
I have a fat file full of
thank-you notes written to me.
Hoarded treasure.
Some date back forty years —
when they have dates.

People are careless about dating notes.
Used to be anyway.
Now email dates
for you.

Maybe not dating thanks-yous is not
but truly not caring,
fitting for a dutiful dashing off
to acknowledge a quickly-forgotten
act of kindness
or obligation.

Piles of little folded cards with
pretty flowers and
matching envelopes.
To the recycling bin with them all!

But the recycling bin is full.
I’ll look — briefly.
This is well-said.
This one awkward.
This one so trite.
People have such trouble with words.

This name does not conjure a face
or a place
or a circumstance.
No date for a clue.

Why do I save these?
To make me feel needed?
To show me I’m righteous?
To tell me who I was, what I did?

Tips on throwing out anything
you don’t love have become popular.
I’m supposed to
touch each one before it goes.
I’ve shuffled these
the way a child mixes up
playing cards.

Close enough?

The New Gratitude,
after all, is not about
the one being thanked,
but the one doing the thanking.
The thank-you note was
always about the sending anyway,
not the receiving.
These scraps of paper
do not
spark gratitude
in me.

Each one a fulfillment of responsibility
for a deed we’ve both forgotten.

Apologies to the neighbors

In case my neighbors notice, yes, this is a photo of your recycling pile at the curb in front of your house.

I serendipitously saw this photo op on a walk months after I wrote the poem. I didn't stage a thing. I glanced down, walked past, had an "aha!" then about-faced, squatted, and took the shot -- just as I found it. The universe staged it.

(My thank-you notes are still in their folder.)

Now I have to caution myself on walks to avoid too-high expectations for photo ops. But I keep my eyes — and my sixth sense — open.