About “Easter Sundays”

Guest post by Daniel Anderson

“Easter Sundays” is a poem that begins with a meditation about a quiet and evanescent domestic perfection, then attempts to apprehend a couple of questions regarding what it means to feel at home in this world, and just how illusive that feeling often is. The topical conversations that the poem considers—about belief, about politics—tend to make an unfortunate and inordinate amount of noise in our daily lives, at least they can in my daily life, and so I also wanted to say something, in the poem, about how we manage (or fail to manage) the decibel levels of that chatter.

Though “Easter Sundays” is placed squarely in the context of Christianity, I hope the poem’s meditations are not limited by this. For me, the poem is driven more by my own personal associations with the holiday and the time of year and the story of Christ than it is by any serious attempts at addressing theological concerns.

Easter Sundays

These yellow April evenings I,
no longer idealistic or inclined
to wish my life were something that it’s not,
sip gin and tonics and enjoy
a fragrant breath of just-mown grass.
Immaculately laned front lawns
are flower-crowned, our windows bright and clean.
The lime wedge bobbing in my glass
suggests an effervescent, new,
and utterly surprising thought of green.
Who could complain? Yet someone surely will,
about the pollen count or lack of rain.
Not me. No one is happier than I
to watch the sprinkler’s grainy rainbow spill
across broad vacancies of watered light
or study sun-glazed copper weathervanes
stamped against the cloud-flown April sky.

But still, it happens nearly every spring—
a blossomed stroll through Holy week,
Good Friday off, a lull, and then
that sadness Easter Sundays always bring.
It’s hard saying exactly why.
It’s not as if I even got to church,
though there are those who wish I would.
Why isn’t it enough just being good?
Extending charity, I mean,
kindness, compassion, concern, and love?
All things I like to think I do.
Who needs an organist and choir,
a brass collection plate, the priest,
and an excruciating pew? Truth is,
it’s something that I’ve often understood:
a deep desire to believe and belong.
Communion in a stony, cool,
and solemn atmosphere. Women
who dress and smell like fresh-cut flowers.
Men starched and ironed, splashed with aftershave.
The comfort someone’s looking after us.
That kind of reassurance has a price—
worship with purpose, prayer on time,
ice-cream socials, driving kids to camp,
reading to shut-ins, selling Christmas wreathes.
It’s not enough, just being nice,
and I suppose I understand this, too.

But what about the ones who get it wrong,
who do all this and still despise
the stupid and the ugly and the poor?
Perhaps they celebrated God in song,
tithed 10 percent and kneeled to pray,
but then two-timed the marriage, harbored hate
against their neighbors, screwed a friend or two—
not even really anything that’s new.
It’s just so dull. You think they’d preach
a little less, not judge so much.
But who am I to say? It’s just so dull,
that righteous indignation of the blessed.

My next-door neighbor hates my guts,
at least when we talk politics he does.
He loves me like a brother, though,
when we talk gardening, cooking, music, dogs.
We plan long weekend trips we’ll never take—
wine country or the coast. Our families eat
together once a week or more.
This isn’t paradise, I know.
This isn’t paradise, it’s only home.
And yet imperfect as it is,
it would be difficult to disagree,
another Easter days away,
that home seems just about as flawless now
as it may ever be.

anderson2014Daniel Anderson teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Oregon and is a winner of the Pushcart Prize. He is the author of The Night Guard at the Wilberforce Hotel (from which this poem is taken) and Drunk in Sunlight, both published by Johns Hopkins, and the editor of The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov.