Poetry Mixtape 27: Ceremony

The other night, I had a conversation with a much-younger friend about the juggling of holidays that comes with a serious relationship – whose family “gets” you for Thanksgiving, Christmas, how you try so hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings and end up sometimes making yourself crazy. Most of us associate these ceremonies or traditions with other people. What happens when you happen to be alone on one of those days draped in tradition? Stevie Edwards’s poem “I Know No Ceremony” from her book Good Grief gives us one interpretation:

I Know No Ceremony

for Christmas Eve dinner
for one. Should I summon
my mother’s sugar cookie recipe,
roll out the precise dough
of my childhood, cut it into
Santas and evergreens,
to eat with Thai delivery
and the dregs of gifted wine?
Should I adopt a church
with a children’s pagaent
and off-key singing? Maybe
walk far into the deep cold
until I hear a voice like
God telling me to go back
home – kiss the scratched
wood floor for being mine
and there and covered
in my very own dust?


I love the progression of this poem from the family (mother’s cookie recipe) to the more societal traditions of churches and pageants to the personal journey that ends in the discovery that having yourself is maybe enough. The language of the poem is simple but precise (like the dough). The wine will be leftover. The church will have off-key singing; the wood floors will be scratched. Nothing is perfect in this new tradition but its singularity and determination.

Stevie’s book is an interesting and intense read – I highly recommend it if you don’t know her work. (It’s also on sale right now at the Write Bloody website – if you click the link above, you can get her amazing book for like 8 dollars. That’s two cups of Starbucks coffee – and supporting poetry is way more important and way fewer calories.)

And, if you want to write, today think of a tradition or holiday where you are almost always with others (family, friends, lover, etc.) and make up a ceremony for that day if you were to spend it alone.


7 thoughts on “Poetry Mixtape 27: Ceremony

  1. This is interesting to me, because I did actually spend Thanksgiving alone a couple of years ago. Since my immediate family has been whittled down to pretty much three adults, and split off into new groups with marriage (and divorce), and since my kids are always with their dad and his huge family, it’s not unusual for me to skip a holiday like Thanksgiving, but that particular Thanksgiving I actually had no options–I will at the very least join friends at a restaurant, or have some sort of celebration with my teenage son. Having no invitations to even turn down felt really lonely. I ended up writing a poem that day, about how I felt, but the poem turned into something completely different in revision, (those sneaky little devils) and it doesn’t really convey the holiday/loneliness thing anymore, so perhaps I should give this idea another go. Maybe a poem about how I feel now about spending holidays alone–free from responsibility and finally getting a chance to relax when the kids are away knowing I’ve wiggled out of the stress of another holiday! Ha ha.

  2. Pingback: Friday Freeforall « Margo Roby: Wordgathering

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