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In Praise of Contentment

There is so much about the holiday season that can make us feel like we and our lives aren't enough: the numerous social engagements that require more time and energy than we have; the extra end-of-the-year work projects that demand our attention; the obligatory visits with family members who may judge us and friends who seem to have accomplished more than we have; the frantic over-the-top cheerfulness that flies in the face of our need to rest and just be.

If the aches and pains of the season have left you feeling inadequate, may “To Contentment,” a poem by Pushcart Prize nominee Richard Lehnert, be healing balm. Lehnert’s poems always put me in touch with my soul. I hope this one helps you find your way to yours. It’s a reminder to celebrate all that you have and all that you are, no matter what remains unfinished or unrealized in your life.

This year, instead of self-judgment and “not-enoughness,” may the holidays bring you the “endless golden afternoon” of feeling content with the simple sacredness of yourself and your life.

To Contentment

By Richard Lehnert

Dusty sentiment of an antique age

do you remember

that sepia print of you

holding in long withered arms

tiny screaming me

already so unlike your side of the family

and well practiced for a lifetime of complaint

No one I know wants or remembers you

and when I tell them I have learned

you and I are distant relatives

embarrassed for me they look down

eyes hooded smiles knowing

dropping hints of their intimacies

with passion grief and ecstasy

as if you were not mother to us all

as if in its long dream each life

does not some day find a door

in a wall that never had one

and now has always opened to

a room we have never seen

and instantly know again

and there of course are you

having waited all this time

to ask if we would not like

to sit and share a pot of tea

and talk without urgency

of that and this and other

for the mere music of our voices

all your endless golden afternoon

from The Only Empty Place, by Richard Lehnert

(Patterson Street Press, 2023)

Reprinted with permission from the author

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