Unexpected Manna

Poem for a Tuesday — “Unexpected Manna” by Gary H. Holthaus

“Those ancient Greeks

Who had a word for everything

Were more articulate than I.

Those Israelites

Who could not spell

The name of God

Are closer kin to me.

Some thing too highly prized

Or close; those that skirt

The edge of pain

Will always be unnamed.

So you,

Falling on my days

Like unexpected manna,

Alter every image

And rearrange my mind

So wholly

I am rendered silent

Gathering in my self

So quietly

That what you do for me

Remains unnamed.”

in The Gift of Tongues, ed. Sam Hamill. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1996. p. 129.


Gary H. Holthaus has been one of Alaska’s most important thinkers and writers. He came to Alaska in 1964 to teach in Naknek with a special interest in helping Alaska Native students remain in school. He was the first director of the state’s bilingual education program. The Founding Director of the Alaska Humanities Forum, Holthaus spent nearly twenty years developing programs, including The Alaska Quarterly Review, one of America’s premier literary magazines and a source of powerful new voices. He is a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the author of eight books of poetry and three works of narrative non-fiction, and a Unitarian Universalist Minister.


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