A Japanese Cure for the Thanksgiving Hangover


Long, long ago a singer named Maureen McGovern sang “The Morning After,” which included the simple line: “There’s got to be a morning after.” On the day after Thanksgiving, the words resonate particularly. One crazy holiday behind us, one to go (and, as they said of the Wicked Witch of the West, “she’s much worse than her sister!”).

But seriously, the antidote is a few Japanese poems from Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, is all. Note how they provide balance and restore order. See how the yin and yang of eastern life can level the playing field of three-too-many football games on television yesterday. Notice how peace fills the vacuum of political arguments that might have over-salted the turkey and lumpy gravy:

  • The guests arrived early! The turkey took longer than expected to reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit! We ran out of cheese and crackers!

Autumn has come
To the lonely cottage,
Buried in dense hop vines,
Which no one visits.
— The Monk Eikei

  • My uncle, after one wine too many, decided to share the joy by accidentally knocking his glass of pinot noir over ,where it ran a red river across the white tablecloth and onto my lap!

A strange old man
Stops me,
Looking out of my deep mirror.
— Hitomaro

  • Aunt Winnie went on and on and on, sucking the bandwidth out of the dining room with the beautiful sound of her own voice. You had all you could do to get “pass the butter, please,” in edgewise!

The colored leaves
Have hidden the paths
On the autumn mountain.
How can I find my girl,
Wandering on ways I do not know?
— Hitomaro

  • The kids left the table immediately after they finished eating. They retired to the den where the television was tuned to the “seasonal channel.” As they had been out partying the night before, they fell asleep on the furniture.

If only the world
Would always remain this way,
Some fishermen
Drawing a little rowboat
Up the river bank.
— The Shögun Minamoto No Sanetomo

  • The dishes took a goodly hour and a half to wash. The dryer rejected half of the dishes as “not passing quality control.” Just when I thought I’d reached the end of the dirty-dish-conga line, someone would bring in a forgotten bowl or tureen from the dining room. “Here you go,” they’d say, as if doing me a favor.

All during a night
Of anxiety I wait.
At last the dawn comes
Thought the cracks of the shutters,
Heartless as night.
— The Monk Shun-E

  • One of our guests got violently ill after everyone else had left. She had to stay over so as to remain near the bathroom, where she could noro- her -virus to her stomach’s desire. This morning, she will leave. Question is, despite all the Lysol we can muster, will she leave the virus, too, as a parting thanks?

The deer on pine mountain,
Where there are no falling leaves,
Knows the coming of autumn
Only by the sound of his own voice.

— Önakatomi No Yoshinobu

  • Ahh. So calming, these little snippets of life long ago. Let us give thanks to Rexroth for rendering them in English, and to the Japanese poets for rendering them with the future Thanksgiving-addled in mind!

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