Poem of the Week, by Ross Gay

Click here for details and to register for this Thursday, November 17’s Memoir in Moments evening workshop and January’s Write Together week-long session – I’d love to see you in the Zoom room!

Once, just out of college, I went to the movies with a friend. In the pocket of my jeans were nine dollars – a five and four ones. This was my cash for the week. I leaned back and draped my legs over the seat in front of me (terrible, I know) and watched the movie.

Walking home, I put my hands in my pockets, realized they were empty –my nine dollars must have fallen out to the floor of the theater–and panicked. My friend was weirded out. “Nine bucks?” he said. “Why are you so upset?”

He was a trainee investment banker. I was a trainee novelist.

Some of us – most of us? – are panicked by money worries at some point in our lives. For some, it’s a lifelong condition. I’ve never forgotten that night at the movies, the loss of that precious cash, how I tried to comfort myself by picturing some other penniless person, maybe a movie usher, maybe a late-night cleaner, and the wild happiness they must have felt when they found that $9 scattered beneath my seat.

The Truth, by Ross Gay

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.

Click here for more information about the wonderful Ross Gay.


Words by Winter: my podcast


  1. Lady Shamla Rose · November 12

    Beloved Alison McGhee

    I don’t understand this poem one bit.

    I am sorry…

    In love, with love, for love
    Shamla of Shamballa

    Liked by 2 people

  2. alisonmcghee · November 12

    Dear Lady Shamla Rose, I love your honesty. The poem is a small story, written from the point of view of a 14 year old working in a burger joint (maybe McDonald’s) who is responsible for training a 38 year old man working a second job to support his family. The man has a cold, and a drop falls from his nose onto the burger that he is putting together under the boy’s supervision. Instead of reporting him or shaming him, the boy chooses to pretend he didn’t see the drop fall. He wants to preserve the older man’s dignity – he knows how hard his life is.

    You have the same deep kindness in you, Lady Shamla, as the boy in the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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