A Thanksgiving Anthem, by William Billings – Christine Potter

A Thanksgiving Anthem, by William Billings

Ye dragons, whose contagious breath
People the corridors of death
Change your dire hissings into heavenly song
And praise your maker with your forked tongues
—William Billings, 1794 – (a paraphrase of Psalm 148)

For-ked, with two syllables, and six or eight
sixteenth notes on “for”. Repeatedly. For
measure after measure. Breath control,
says my husband. He reminds me it was

my idea our choir sing this anthem. It’s what
I deserve for having cocktails with him and
a Sacred Harp CD. William Billings, leather
tanner, street sweeper, composer, missing

an eye, one leg shorter than the other, loved
dragons. Hissing dragons, especially, because
he could win even them. So what if they
smelled bad and King James gives them just

one word in Psalm 148? Billings turned his
anthem into dragons, turned his whole choir
into dragons, turned choirs into dragons two
hundred and twenty years into the future.

And because of his love, the dragons were
grateful. They unfolded their napkins and
ate turkey and Indian Pudding. Make sure
you hit the “s” in “hissings”, my husband says:

Hissssingss! Thus instructed, our lizard-like
scales include the whole world, as they were
intended to. See? The dragons are carrying
everyone’s plates to the kitchen sink. Alleluia!

by Christine Potter

Christine on Facebook

In lieu of my usual Editor’s note, I give you Christine’s explanation: “It’s an oddball piece I wrote last year about an early American Thanksgiving anthem with musical sound effects that mimic the hissing of dragons as they praise God, and so are redeemed. For real. Guy who wrote it was a nut!”

Editor’s addendum: Give thanks! I almost posted this poem for today:

There once was a turkey named Byrd—
had a temper as foul as a turd.
With Thanksgiving day dread
he hid in the head
and yelled: Go away, I’m a shit not a bird!

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