A child I didn’t have has been with me throughout my adult life. He has grown up without me in a shadow world that exists within this world: invisible but close by. In dreams he stands in the doorway of a room I’m writing in, his feet on the doorsill, never stepping into the room itself. He’s tall now, and lean, and always smiling. The fact that he never existed makes him no less real to me. Every one of Ross Gay’s poems goes straight to my heart, but none quite like this.
Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be, by Ross Gay
—after Steve Scafidi
The way the universe sat waiting to become,
quietly, in the nether of space and time,
you too remain some cellular snuggle
dangling between my legs, curled in the warm
swim of my mostly quietest self. If you come to be—
And who knows?—I wonder, little bubble
of unbudded capillaries, little one ever aswirl
in my vascular galaxies, what would you think
of this world which turns itself steadily
into an oblivion that hurts, and hurts bad?
Would you curse me my careless caressing you
into this world or would you rise up
and, mustering all your strength into that tiny throat
which one day, no doubt, would grow big and strong,
scream and scream and scream until you break the back of one injustice,
or at least get to your knees to kiss back to life
some roadkill? I have so many questions for you,
for you are closer to me than anyone
has ever been, tumbling, as you are, this second,
through my heart’s every chamber, your teeny mouth
singing along with the half-broke workhorse’s steady boom and gasp.
And since we’re talking today I should tell you,
though I know you sneak a peek sometimes
through your father’s eyes, it’s a glorious day,
and there are millions of leaves collecting against the curbs,
and they’re the most delicate shade of gold
we’ve ever seen and must favor the transparent
wings of the angels you’re swimming with, little angel.
And as to your mother—well, I don’t know—
but my guess is that lilac bursts from her throat
and she is both honeybee and wasp and some kind of moan to boot
and probably she dances in the morning—
but who knows? You’ll swim beneath that bridge if it comes.
For now let me tell you about the bush called honeysuckle
that the sad call a weed, and how you could push your little
sun-licked face into the throngs and breathe and breathe.
Sweetness would be your name, and you would wonder why
four of your teeth are so sharp, and the tiny mountain range
of your knuckles so hard. And you would throw back your head
and open your mouth at the cows lowing their human songs
in the field, and the pigs swimming in shit and clover,
and everything on this earth, little dreamer, little dreamer
of the new world, holy, every rain drop and sand grain and blade
of grass worthy of gasp and joy and love, tiny shaman,
tiny blood thrust, tiny trillion cells trilling and trilling,
little dreamer, little hard hat, little heartbeat,
little best of me.
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