If Gratitude Were Horses, We’d Never Fear a Stampede (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

free-giftToday’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a contemplation on gifts and giving. I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on gifts when I was in high school, and it has stayed with me all these years. Emerson definitely had his moments as an essayist.


“The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


The gift is always some sort of recrimination,
At least this is the way I see it.
The gift tells what you think of me,
Or whether, indeed, you think of me.
Upon receipt, I am immediately filled
With guilt, shame, anger, sadness or—
Most likely—unworthiness,
At least for gifts from you.
Others may give gifts that
Only reaffirm my deeply held
Belief that I may not be worth
The second thought required
For a gift, but you are different,
Are you not?

And it should be easier to give than receive,
But what is it like to be too painfully
Aware that a thoughtless gift
Will make someone feel
Unworthy of thought, of value?
Paralyzed by caution, we givers
Fail ourselves and our fellow humans
Regularly. If only we’d had more time,
The gift would have been better.
A gift receipt is included, in case
You don’t like it.


“We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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