The 65 poems in All Occasions are about a boy who later flies as an Air Force pilot, marries a woman so lovely and loving he’s stunned, goes home after a war and discovers with friends and family what John Donne meant in one Christmas sermon: “All occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons.”
The poems celebrate the wonder and need of all occasions—the heartache and longing and joy of being alone, loved, in war, in a cockpit at 40,000, riding the range on a mustang, and in the arms of a family. From “swaggering to the flight line” as a young pilot to feeling alone in the jungles of Saigon, he goes home to work the ranch and survives largely by learning to connect with others—other old vets, family, and strangers.
The book opens with a granddaughter humming and nibbling breakfast while her daddy, back from war, cooks more French toast for her. In part 2 of All Occasions, the writer experiences Vietnam and discovers over swift decades how deeply he needs friends, family, and God.
Always, even after flying “to Saigon and back,” this book is about the risks and joys of marriage and raising children in a dangerous world, where love is our hope and only grace saves. This is Walt McDonald’s eighteenth collection of poems, with his best, most affirmative core.