Ross Gay

Ross Gay Poems

Was with the pudgy hands of a thirteen-year-old
that I took the marble of his head
just barely balanced on his reedy neck

One never knows
does one
how one comes to be

Today, November 28th, 2005, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
I am staring at my hands in the common pose
of the hungry and penitent. I am studying again
the emptiness of my clasped hands, wherein I see

for Amadou Diallo

The few strings snap and pull
the doll's flimsy limbs for his last
ballet, an American piece, arms flung
like a flamingo's wings, his sashay
a flame's undulation, dip, wave, head
snapped into a skygaze, a pained grin white
beneath the doorway's light, legs braiding
in the climactic pirouette, convulsive
shoulders rolling, the body's final drift
smooth as a sun-baked bloodflake
flecked off a rhino's horn, the gored
corpse sweet meat to a smoky gauze
of ravenous flies humming and blood-
sucking tiny gunpowder-singed hearts,
charred kiss marks, until, at last,
the strings go slack, the doll
sprawls in a crippled collapse, his face
half lit, the puppeteers praising this black
ghost's steel-pierced, last dying
quake, the dead sweet and clean,
and that last wheeze, an escaping, you've heard
it, drops the floodgates for the real ghosts,
a bouqet of them, a blitzkrieg of black orchids
roaring. And they blaze.

Today my heart is so goddamned fat with grief
that I've begun hauling it in a wheelbarrow. No. It's an anvil
dragging from my neck as I swim
through choppy waters swollen with the putrid corpses of hippos,
which means lurking, somewhere below, is the hungry
snout of a croc waiting to spin me into an oblivion
worse than this run-on simile, which means only to say:
I'm sad. And everyone knows what that means.

And in my sadness I'll walk to a café,
and not see light in the trees, nor finger the bills in my pocket
as I pass the boarded houses on the block. No,
I will be slogging through the obscure country of my sadness
in all its monotone flourish, and so imagine my surprise
when my self-absorption gets usurped
by the sound of opera streaming from an open window,
and the sun peeks ever-so-slightly from behind his shawl,
and this singing is getting closer, so that I can hear the
delicately rolled r's like a hummingbird fluttering the tongue
which means a language more beautiful than my own,
and I don't recognize the song
though I'm jogging toward it and can hear the woman's
breathing through the record's imperfections and above me
two bluebirds dive and dart and a rogue mulberry branch
leaning over an abandoned lot drags itself across my face,
staining it purple and looking, now, like a mad warrior of glee
and relief I run down the street, and I forgot to mention
the fifty or so kids running behind me, some in diapers,
some barefoot, all of them winged and waving their pacifiers
and training wheels and nearly trampling me
when in a doorway I see a woman in slippers and a floral housedress
blowing in the warm breeze who is maybe seventy painting the doorway
and friends, it is not too much to say
it was heaven sailing from her mouth and all the fish in the sea
and giraffe saunter and sugar in my tea and the forgotten angles
of love and every name of the unborn and dead
from this abuelita only glancing at me
before turning back to her earnest work of brushstroke and lullaby
and because we all know the tongue's clumsy thudding
makes of miracles anecdotes let me stop here
and tell you I said thank you.

It's the shivering. When rage grows
hot as an army of red ants and forces
the mind to quiet the body, the quakes
emerge, sometimes just the knees,
but, at worst, through the hips, chest, neck
until, like a virus, slipping inside the lungs
and pulse, every ounce of strength tapped
to squeeze words from my taut lips,
his eyes scanning my car's insides, my eyes,
my license, and as I answer the questions
3, 4, 5 times, my jaw tight as a vice,
his hand massaging the gun butt, I
imagine things I don't want to
and inside beg this to end
before the shiver catches my
hands, and he sees,
and something happens.

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color's green. I'm spring.

—for Walter Aikens

If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth's great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden's dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
Thank you.

Because he was 38, because this
was his second job, because
he had two daughters, because his hands
looked like my father's, because at 7
he would walk to the furniture warehouse,
unload trucks 'til 3 AM, because I
was fourteen and training him, because he made
$3.75 an hour, because he had a wife
to look in the face, because
he acted like he respected me,
because he was sick and would not call out
I didn't blink when the water
dropped from his nose
into the onion's perfectly circular
mouth on the Whopper Jr.
I coached him through preparing.
I did not blink.
Tell me this didn't happen.
I dare you.

for Keith and Jen

Friends I am here to modestly report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again,
until, swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch,
where the sunflower curled its giant
swirling of seeds
around the bird and leaned back
to admire the soft wind
nudging the bird's plumage,
and friends I could see
the points on the flower's stately crown
soften and curl inward
as it almost indiscernibly lifted
the food of its body
to the bird's nuzzling mouth
whose fervor
I could hear from
oh 20 or 30 feet away
and see from the tiny hulls
that sailed from their
good racket,
which good racket, I have to say
was making me blush,
and rock up on my tippy-toes,
and just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel.

If you think you know enough to say this poem
is about good hair, I'll correct you
and tell you it's about history
which is the blacksmith of our tongues.
Our eyes. Where you see misunderstanding
I see knuckles and teeth for sale
in a storefront window. I see the waterlogged
face of the fourteen-year-old boy.
The bullet's imperceptible sizzle
toward an unarmed man. And as you ask me to sign the book
that is not mine, your gaze shifting between
me and the author's photo, whispering,
but that's not you? I do not
feel sorry for you. No. I think only that when a man
is a concept he will tell you about the smell
of smoke. He will tell you the distance
between heartbreak and rage.

A man sings
by opening his
mouth a man
sings by opening
his lungs by
turning himself into air
a flute can
be made of a man
nothing is explained
a flute lays
on its side
and prays a wind
might enter it
and make of it
at least
a small final song

a euphemism for some
yank and gobble
no doubt some
yummy tumble or other
like monkey-spanking
or hiding the salami
of course your mind
goes there
loosey-goose that you are
me too! me too!
you have a favorite
don't lie
I've heard you say them
tending the hive
eating the melon
how's the tunnel traffic
or as a "massage therapist"
would say to my pal
when his loneliness
dragged him to a carpeted room
in an apartment building
in Chinatown
where the small hands
lathered his body
open the door
sharing with the ants
some entymologic metaphor
the chronic yoke
in love-making
not only of body to body
but life to death
sharing with the ants
or the specific act of dragging with the tongue
one's sweat-gilded body from the tibia's
look-out along the rope bridge
of the Achilles marching
across the long plains of the calf
and the meticulously unnamed zone behind the knee
over the hamstring into
use your imagination for Chrissakes
but I will tell you it is dark there
and sweet
sharing with the ants
but actually that's not at all
what I'm talking about
I mean actually
sharing with the ants
which I did September 21
a Friday in 2012
when by fluke or whim or
prayer I jostled the crotch-high
fig tree whose few fruit had been
scooped by our fat friends
the squirrels
but found shriveled and purple
into an almost testicular papoose
smuggled beneath the fronds
of a few leaves
one stalwart fruit which
I immediately bit in half
only to find a small platoon of ants
twisting in the meat
and when I spit out my bite
another 4 or 5 lay sacked out
their spindly legs
pedaling slow nothing
one barely looking at me through a half-open eye
the way an infant might
curled into his mother's breast
and one stumbled dazed through my beard
tickling me as it tumbled
head over feet over head
over feet back into the bite
in my hand the hooked sabers
of their mandibles made soft kneading
the flesh their claws
heavy and slow with fruit
their armor slathered plush
as the seeds shone above
the sounds of their work
like water slapping
a pier at night
and not one to disrupt an orgy
I mostly gobbled around their nuzzle and slurp
careful not to chomp a reveler
and nibbling one last thread of flesh
noticed a dozey ant nibbling the same
toward me its antennae
just caressing my face
its pincers
slowing at my lips both
of our mouths sugared
and shining both of us
twirling beneath the fig's
seeds spinning like a newly
discovered galaxy
that's been there forever

I'm thinking here of the proto-Indo-European root
which means the precise sound of a flower bud

unwrapping, and the tiny racket a seed makes
cracking open in the dark, which has evolved

in a handful of Latinate languages to mean the sound
of lovers exiting each other, implying as well the space

between them which usage is seen first in Dante
in the fourteenth century, elbowing it for good into our mouths

and minds, and of course the sweet bead of sugar
imperceptibly moseying from the fig's tiny eye precisely

unlike sorrow which the assembly of insects sipping there
will tell you, when I tell you my niece, without fit or wail,

knowing her friend Emma had left and not said goodbye,
having spent the better part of the day resting on her finger,

sometimes opening her wings, which were lustrous brown
with gold spots, to steady herself at the child-made

gale, or when she was tossed into the air while my niece
took her turn at pick-up sticks until calling Emma

by holding her finger in the air to which Emma would wobble down,
and Mikayla said Deal us in when we broke out the dominoes

at which they made a formidable duo, whispering to each other
instructions, and while the adults babbled our various dooms

Mikayla and Emma went into the bedroom where they sang
and danced and I think I heard Mikayla reading Emma

her favorite book, both of them slapping their thighs, leaning
into each other, and at bedtime Mikayla put on her PJs

carefully, first the left arm through while Emma teetered
on the right, then the other, and in the dark Mikayla whispered to Emma,

who had threaded her many legs into the band of Mikayla's sleeve,
while she drifted, watching Emma's wings slowly open

and close, and Emma must have flown away for good, judging
from the not brutal silence at breakfast, as Mikayla chewed

the waffle goofily with her one front tooth gone, and weakly smiled,
looking into the corners of the room for her friend, for Emma,

who had left without saying goodbye, the tears easily
rolling from her eyes, when I say she was weeping,

when I say she wept.

You might rightly wonder what I am doing here

in the passenger's seat of this teal Mitsubishi

with the hood secured by six or seven thick strips of duct tape,

sitting next to Myself, who sits in the driver's seat,

having quickly pulled into the lot of the Kentucky Fried Chicken

on Rt. 413 in Levittown, Pennsylvania,

from which years ago my father would sometimes

bring home a bucket of hot wings to share

just with me, his comrade in spice and grease and gore,

rattling the little charnel house like a bell

to indicate a joy impending and plucking

the lid to waft the scent toward the vents

into my room where I'd catch a whiff and toss my Avengers

comic to vault down the steps before high-fiving

my smiling old man, stinking of his own hours working

at the Roy Rogers down on Cottman, and plunge into the scuzzy muck,

the two of us silently cleaning the bones while the laugh track

of some re-run ebbed and flowed;

you wonder rightly what it is I am saying

quietly in the ear of Myself, and what I am pointing at

with one hand while the other rests on Myself's shoulder,

tenderly if not a bit tentatively, for Myself

is still a very big man, and quick, and trying hard

not to take anyone with him over the ledge on which he stands,

which you can tell when he just barely looks in my direction

a bit animal with sweat glistening the back of his neck

and his temples, his jaw flexed with his hands

clutching the wheel, the slightest whistle in his breath

while beneath the looming sign of the Colonel smiling

like one concealing some awful and bloody secret

a family in the rearview parks their minivan

and not mostly noticing us makes their way out:

an older brother gripping the wrist of a smaller one

who clutches his purple and yellow jacket; an infant snugged

in its father's arm tipping its head back to see us

from beneath its light blue cap, opening and closing its hand

as the glass doors swing shut behind them.


You likewise might wonder how Myself has arrived

at this flamboyant terror, an accretion

the way in caves, where nothing without light

is seen, minerals will gather into impossible spires

waiting to impale a thing, that he actually, while driving

home from his dear mother's apartment, saw

in his mind with a clarity like the semis behind him

trudging toward the on-ramp to Philadelphia or New Jersey,

like the carts wandering about the PathMark lot or the woman

in a housedress and slippers waiting at the crosswalk

smoking a cigarette, his own hands working a vial

of some sort from which he poured a poison

into his mother's half-eaten tub of blueberry yogurt,

which imagined matricide is perhaps especially jarring

to Myself, given the awkward walking he does

avoiding ants and other tiny beasts,

given the long prayer he found himself giving

the chickadee that met its death against his windshield,

lodging under the wiper blades and drumming the glass

with the one free wing until he could pull over, whereupon

Myself did kiss the unlucky thing, folding its wings into its body,

before laying it in a small hole at the foot of a dogwood tree

in full regalia, its thousand flowers like a congregation

walking arm in arm in the river.


And knowing Myself well now I can see

what murderous birds flew numerous and hungry

into the attic, shrikes especially, working

their ways in at the slimmest shims of light

between shingles and through rotholes wedging first

their heads in without blinking and collapsing

the bones of their bodies their tongues thrust out

and necks made long wriggling in leaving behind

clumps of shivering feathers blood-glued to the cracks

one after the next prying through loose boards

snapping at the tail feathers of the ones in front of them

the clawing feet skitting in one after the next

until the attic roared with soaring and the war

screams of birds clutching one another with talons

by the neck or back and veering quick

toward any piercing thing barb or thorn

or snapped branch jeering into the air like this

the impaled thing writhing and fluttering

once or twice its wings and twisting open its beak

from which came no sound—

which is, in fact, the wrong metaphor, the more I think of it,

for the birds in question favor the long view

of open meadows. They love exposed perches on which they fasten

their talons and unwrap their beautiful wings in the wind.

And the birds I'm talking about are not birds at all,

but common sorrow made murderous simply by nailing

the shingles tight, and caulking with the tar always boiling out back

all possible cracks. Which is to say, the metaphor here

has become the sealing up as much as any bird, has become

the way Myself had made unwittingly a habit of slathering

mortar everywhere, almost by accident,

for fear of what might forever slip in and be felt;

which was, in addition to everything else, simply, goddamn,

how sad my mother was when my father died, goddamn,

how sad was Myself; and how scared was Myself,

scared nearly, in fact, to death, at his mother afraid

or not sleeping well or not unpacking for months in her new apartment,

outside of which Myself, visiting, would sit in his car

for a half hour or more, staring

into the yellow aluminum siding's patina and the seam

it made with the fake white brick

as he felt the bones of his chest breaking which was the feeling

of the very real terror he had at what his hands might do, which his hands

would never do, which was like the wood shake helpless against the prying

shrike, clawing and snapping its hunter's beak, which, I am happy

to remind us both again, was not the feeling at all. All Myself was feeling,

in fact, was not feeling his heart break again and again.

The way he did for some time sitting with his mother

in her living room, watching the Eagles that year have a good season

while she sobbed and didn't sleep well and in some way

shone in her sorrow complete though it was very hard

for him to admire for the roaring in his head, which was nothing

more, it turns out, than the sounds of not weeping, the sounds

of sadness turned back. Nothing savage, nothing cruel or vicious,

not a bird in sight—just sadness. Which is to say,

in other words, just being alive.


My Beloved Chickenshit; My Sweet

Little Chickenshit; don't run,

My Baby. Don't flee, My Honey.

Hunker down. Hunker Down.


There is, in my yard, a huge and beautiful peach tree.

I planted the thing as a three-foot whip,

a spindly prayer with a tangle of roots so delicate,

so wild, I took ten minutes to feather them apart

before spreading them in the hole like a lightning storm

in one of those images of the brain. Now the tree reaches almost

into the grumpy neighbor out back's yard, the one who once

snarled at me and my house why would anyone paint a house that color?,

and whose unsmiling middle-aged daughter mows the lawn

twice a day, though I've seen in March or April

when the tree's thousand pink mouths unfurl

and blow kisses to everyone in sight, the burdened curl

of the old lady's back uncoil—I've seen her stand up some and wink

at that tree, and, no kidding, saw her once teeter out

in a gloomy gray pantsuit and, scrubbed by the bloom,

change her costume right then and there to something

frilled and blazing, which she wore on her trot

through the neighborhood whistling to the birds swirling

behind her. In this neck of the woods you have to prune

a peach tree if you don't want the fruit to rot, if you don't want

all that fragrant grandstanding to be for naught. Which is why

today, this sunny April afternoon with no rain or real freeze forecasted,

I dig out my tools and sharpening stone, making the blades

all shimmer enough to skim the hair from my arm.

Then, after cleaning each with a rag dipped in

some watered-down bleach, I move around the tree's

sprawling limbs, the ruddy young growth all wagging

at the sun, all shivering with the breezes

muscling through. And with my loppers and snips I

look up into the behemoth tree and begin clipping,

first the wisps of growth and pencil thick sprouts, before hauling

myself into the tree, wedging my boot in the sturdy crotch and clinging

to a fat branch to keep thinning: overlapping

limbs or those with some hint of disease; those grown haywire

or deranged twisting toward the light; and those from which

last year grew maybe half a bushel of fruit, limbs

wrist thick with bark whorled and cleft by age,

but whose tight angle might snap this year

and wreck the tree, and require a saw to remove, which I do,

watching the last branch tumble into the pile of clippings below.

I do this again and again, crawling through the branches

as though through a beloved's ribs. Friends, if you haven't guessed,

every time I do this a little bit I mourn,

leaning the pruner's steel flush against the flesh,

or working back and forth the saw's grin and feeling

the smooth wood tumble or twirl into the little tomb which, after

the cutting is done, is about my size—is about the size,

give or take, of everyone I've ever loved. This is how, every spring,

I promise the fruit will swell with sugar: by bringing in the air and light—

until, like the old-timers say, the tree is open enough

for a bird to fly through. Which, in fact, they do—two cardinals

flirting; a blue jay flashing its pompadour; one of those little greyish birds

I can't remember the name of, landing on the furthest limbs

where it does nothing special besides maybe dump its teeny

chamber pot while whistling this very ditty:

half dirge, half disco, some giggly trill

loop-de-looping from its tiny beak,

while its ruffled, musty body sways on the tree's furthest finger,

resting exactly where I put it,

singing just as I asked it to,

which, from up here, where the newly open view is good, I can see

is what I was pointing to, what I was saying quietly to Myself,

in the parking lot of the KFC in Levittown, Pennsylvania,

as Myself shivered, and looked up, trying to see,

trying to hear.

from my mother's sadness, which was,
to me, unbearable, until,
it felt to me
not like what I thought it felt like
to her, and so felt inside myself—like death,
like dying, which I would almost
have rather done, though adding to her sadness
would rather die than do—
but, by sitting still, like what, in fact, it was—
a form of gratitude
which when last it came
drifted like a meadow lit by torches
of cardinal flower, one of whose crimson blooms,
when a hummingbird hovered nearby,
I slipped into my mouth
thereby coaxing it
to scrawl on my tongue
its heart's frenzy, its fleet
nectar-questing song,
with whom, with you, dear mother,
I now sing along.

It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth that made me
a snatch of grass in the thing's maw,
a fly tasting its ear. It was
touching my nose to his that made me know
the clover's bloom, my wet eye to his that
made me know the long field's secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse's that made me know
the sorrow of horses. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in this way drop my torches.
And in this way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.

There is a puritan in me
the brim of whose
hat is so sharp
it could cut
your tongue out
with a brow
so furrowed you
could plant beets
or turnips or
something of course
good for storing
he has not taken a nap
since he was two years old
because he detests
sloth above all
he is maybe the only real person
I've ever heard
say "sloth" or "detest"
in conversation
he reads poetry
the puritan in me
with an X-Acto knife in his calloused hand
if not a stick of dynamite
and if the puritan in me sees
two cats making
whoopee in the barn
I think not
because they get
in the way
or scare the crows
but more precisely
because he thinks it is worthless
the angles of animals
fucking freely
in the open air
he will blast them to smithereens
I should tell you
the puritan in me always carries a shotgun
he wants to punish the world I suppose
because he feels he needs punishing
for who knows how many unpunishable things
like the times as a boy he'd sneak shirtless between the cows
to haul his tongue across the saltlick
or how he'd study his dozing granny's instep
like it was the map of his county
or the spring nights he'd sneak to the garden behind the sleeping house
and strip naked
while upon him lathered the small song
of the ants rasping their tongues
across the peonies' sap, making of his body
a flower-dappled tree
while above him the heavens wheeled and his tongue
drowsed slack as a creek,
on the banks of which, there he is,
right now, the puritan in me
tossing his shotgun into the cattails,
taking off his boots, and washing his feet
in that water.

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
looking up
the racket in
the lugwork probably
rehearsing some
stupid thing I
said or did
some crime or
other the city they
say is a lonely
place until yes
the sound of sweeping
and a woman
yes with a
broom beneath
which you are now
too the canopy
of a fig its
arms pulling the
September sun to it
and she
has a hose too
and so works hard
rinsing and scrubbing
the walk
lest some poor sod
slip on the
silk of a fig
and break his hip
and not probably
reach over to gobble up
the perpetrator
the light catches
the veins in her hands
when I ask about
the tree they
flutter in the air and
she says take
as much as
you can
help me
so I load my
pockets and mouth
and she points
to the step-ladder against
the wall to
mean more but
I was without a
sack so my meager
plunder would have to
suffice and an old woman
whom gravity
was pulling into
the earth loosed one
from a low slung
branch and its eye
wept like hers
which she dabbed
with a kerchief as she
cleaved the fig with
what remained of her
teeth and soon there were
eight or nine
people gathered beneath
the tree looking into
it like a
constellation pointing
do you see it
and I am tall and so
good for these things
and a bald man even
told me so
when I grabbed three
or four for
him reaching into the
giddy throngs of
yellow-jackets sugar
stoned which he only
pointed to smiling and
rubbing his stomach
I mean he was really rubbing his stomach
like there was a baby
in there
it was hot his
head shone while he
offered recipes to the
group using words which
I couldn't understand and besides
I was a little
tipsy on the dance
of the velvety heart rolling
in my mouth
pulling me down and
down into the
oldest countries of my
body where I ate my first fig
from the hand of a man who escaped his country
by swimming through the night
and maybe
never said more than
five words to me
at once but gave me
figs and a man on his way
to work hops twice
to reach at last his
fig which he smiles at and calls
baby, c'mere baby,
he says and blows a kiss
to the tree which everyone knows
cannot grow this far north
being Mediterranean
and favoring the rocky, sun-baked soils
of Jordan and Sicily
but no one told the fig tree
or the immigrants
there is a way
the fig tree grows
in groves it wants,
it seems, to hold us,
yes I am anthropomorphizing
goddammit I have twice
in the last thirty seconds
rubbed my sweaty
forearm into someone else's
sweaty shoulder
gleeful eating out of each other's hands
on Christian St.
in Philadelphia a city like most
which has murdered its own
this is true
we are feeding each other
from a tree
at the corner of Christian and 9th
strangers maybe
never again.

Ross Gay Biography

Ross Gay is an American poet and professor. Ross Gay was born August 1, 1974 to a Black father and white mother in Youngstown, Ohio, but he grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania.[1] He received his B.A. from Lafayette College, his MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and his Ph.D. in American Literature from Temple University, and is a basketball coach, an occasional demolition man and a painter. He has taught poetry, art and literature at Lafayette College in Easton, PA and Montclair State University in New Jersey. He now teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and the low-residency MFA in poetry program at Drew University. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Columbia: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry and Atlanta Review, and in anthologies including From the Fishouse (Persea Books, 2009). His honors include being a Cave Canem Workshop fellow and a Bread Loaf Writers Conference Tuition Scholar, and he received a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.)

The Best Poem Of Ross Gay

For Some Slight I Can'T Quite Recall

Was with the pudgy hands of a thirteen-year-old
that I took the marble of his head
just barely balanced on his reedy neck
and with the brute tutelage
of years fighting the neighbor kids
and too the lightning of my father's
stiff palm I leaned the boy's head
full force into the rattly pane of glass
on the school bus and did so with the eagle of justice
screaming in my ear as he always does
for the irate and stupid I made the window sing
and bend and the skinny boy too
whose eyes grew to lakes lit by mortar fire
bleating with his glasses crooked
I'm not an animal walking in place
on the green vinyl seat looking far away
and me watching him and probably almost smiling
at the song and dance I made of the weak
and skinny boy who towering above me
became even smaller and bizarre and birdlike
pinned and beating his wings frantically
against his cage and me probably
almost smiling as is the way of the stupid
and cruel watching the weak and small
and innocent not getting away.

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