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

Poems of the Week, by Ross Gay


My daughter to me last night, as I weeded the front gardens with empty streets and choppers circling overhead: “Hey Ma. It’s past 8. Curfew.”

Me: “If I see the national guard tearing down the block I’ll just run inside.”

Another conversation I wouldn’t have predicted I’d ever be having, but this is where we are. I’ll be working the rest of my life to undo the racism baked into me, my community, and this country.


Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 AM, by Ross Gay

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.

A Small Needful Fact, by Ross Gay

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.


For more information about Ross Gay, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by Ross Gay

IMG_0696A 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.


For more information on Ross Gay, please click here.