Tag Archives: Gratitude

Nobody Plans to Stay in Spokane

SpokaneMy plan for the break was to take a bus from Spokane to Missoula, and get a ride from there to Hamilton, Montana, to visit my grandparents, then travel to Arizona with my parents. To make a short story shorter, the bus was delayed, and now I’m stuck in Spokane for the night. I will depart in the morning, I hope.

My aunt was kind enough to give me a ride to Spokane from Moscow, on her birthday no less. In her profound generosity, she booked a hotel room for me in Spokane after learning the bus was delayed twelve hours. She then joined a friend for per-arranged birthday plans, hurrying because apparently there was an active shooter in downtown Spokane. She told me that her well-traveled husband has only ever been afraid of Spokane. Moscow, Russia? Fine. Dubai? Sure. But not Spokane. Anything but Spokane at night.

Of course 2017 would draw to a close with me stuck in a hotel room in Spokane where there’s an active shooter on the last day of the semester, listening to “Pale Green Things” by The Mountain Goats on repeat. There are worse endings.

The last time I was in Spokane, I was with the only other nonfiction first-year student in my department. He was picking up a friend from New York at the same Greyhound station I will (hopefully) depart from. He and I wandered the town at night, what my well-traveled uncle would strongly advise against. We found cool bars, he visited a dispensary, and we waited for his friend’s bus in his car listening to Utah Philips sing “Solidarity Forever” on repeat, talking about the possibility of unionizing grad students to protect ourselves from the multitude of organizations attacking higher education.

A month later, he had to leave. His story is not mine to tell, but I know that a graduate student union might have been able to help him stay. A better healthcare system, or even expanded medicaid, would also have helped, and stricter environmental regulations would have spared his health from the start. But, as with so many things this year, it’s too late now.

I didn’t expect to be in Spokane tonight. I expected to explain again to my grandparents what a vegetarian diet involves and sleeping in a comfortable old house in the Bitterroot Valley. Instead, tonight I can see the spot my friend and I parked and shared our insecurities from the view of this hotel. What an unexpected gift, to remember the people who have helped me survive this semester. I needed this reminder of the many people who unintentionally hold me together at the seams just by being themselves. At the end of a dreadful year, what an unexpected gift.


Poem: Litany of Gratitude


Litany of Gratitude

I failed to look at the weather reports,
and now I’m ankle-deep in snow
staring above me at white sheets of snowfall, like paper
curtaining my memory in the open street.

There are no sad snow moments for me,
even when there should be. I am only grateful
for the alls and everythings I’ve known,
that I have friends who can knit hats
or produce scarves, socks, all cozy chic;

that I was not born to dig for copper,
or in the malarial sectors of our history,
that luck has placed me in a retrospective personality
surrounded by a box of mirrors,
that I am not the kind of person to scorn
such blessings as a given but as icy coincidence
no more deserved than a cracked skull on a freeway
over sleek, glossy, cold-kissing pavement;

that my new tiny watch fits my wrist
an hour ahead of the friend who put it there
so I can send postcards from the future:
a storm is coming, wrap up warm,
this orange slice of time is serene, I hope you’ll enjoy it;

that simple things make me whimsical,
that it is right that we should at all times and in all places
be whimsical, that the possibility of giggling
is as real as the dance of snowflakes on our tongues;

that snow is not stupendous but soft,
not a knighthood adorned in force
but a book whose pages are whitened sidewalk squares
recording the theologians and cops and the homeless,
the students and plumbers and construction workers,
farmers in heavy boots, bankers in leather shoes,
sheet after sheet of snow, and feet making brief prints in time,
like a ferocious typewriter, as we move
in search of someplace else, something soon, out of the snow;

that I have enough ego to record the sainthood of passerby,
all of them leaving a mark that will melt,
just as this poem will dissolve soon enough
into anti-syllabic nonsense. Still,
I am grateful for these blessings
and the tumultuous motion of others
stamping their feet where I stand, numb,
staring at the snow-forlorn sidewalk
giving sidelong glances to the saints.