I first encountered Edmund Vance Cooke at a conference in 2003, when Everett Gross stood up at an "open mic" session and recited his poem "Uncivilized," from memory. Some of his poems do not appeal to me in the least, but some catch my attention. This was published in "The Public," December 1906, as a reprint from the Saturday Evening Post.
We thank Thee. Yea, in the even tone
Of those who are glad of the goods they own.
We thank Thee. Yea, that Thou hast preferred
And blessed us more than the common herd.
We thank Thee, part with the heart's intention.
But most, let us own, with the lip's convention.
"We thank Thee." Lord! what a selfish prayer.
Thanks! — while a beggar's breast is bare?
Thanks that our own full feast is spread
While another creature is lacking bread?
Thanks that our full-fed blood runs warm,
While a starveling baby breasts the storm?
Thanksgiving! The word is a godless taunt
From the "House of Have" to the "House of Want."
Until I share my uttermost crust
With sinner or saint, with jailed or just,
I will not clamor to God and raise
My complacent eyes — and call it praise.
Why, what am I, that Thou givest a feast
Which Thou hast not shared with Thy worst and least?
I look at the world and I see the yield
For all from forest and mine and fleld.
And because I have seized a share, shall I
Cry out Thanksgiving — and only cry?
Thanks? Nay, for though I am cloyed, I know
The taste of the hungering want. And though
My limbs are whole, I can feel the crack
Of the bloody bones on the torture-rack.
I have looked in the pit and have not feared,
But I know the shrink of the soul it seared.
Yes, yes; I am even as you — of those
Who can not, or will not, heal these woes.
I am what I am, but I will not be
At one with the smug-lipped Pharisee
Who praises his God for his earthly gain,
While Misery stares through the window-pane.
—Edmund Vance Cooke in the Saturday Evening Post