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This morning he knows it is coming to an end,
this life of his hanging by a frayed thread.
He is closer to it each time
as he glides into his narrow slit, meekly
like the weary-kneed cattle plodding
into their stall at the end of day.

It’s everybody’s story,
the way his kind can go on for years
without a yearning, biding their time
in a dim closet, sleeping
among the printed lilacs on an old blouse
like the one he rests on right now,
waiting for what he already knows –
that one blissful morning, the hand
would come down, brush along
his still perfectly round edge
for a contemplative second,
and yank him free.

 

Originally published on July 21st, 2016 on my old blog. 

[Book Review] Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

 

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I wasn’t planning on writing a review on Ross Gay’s newest poetry collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. I finished it rather quickly and put it aside before moving on to other readings. However, for some strange reason, in the following few days, some of the poems kept coming back to me. Certain imageries – always in such vivid colors like the book cover – lingered on in my mind like the intense fragrance of summer roses.

In the poem Burial, which is also one of my favorite poems,  a young man plants a plum tree and scatters his father’s ashes into the roots.

and he dove in glad for the robust air / saddling a slight gust / into my nose and mouth / chuckling as I coughed / but mostly he disappeared / into the minor yawns in the earth / into which I places the trees / splaying wide their roots / casting the gray dust of my old man / evenly throughout the hotel /

And the final interpretive scene delivers such intense joy that transcends grief to something else – something hopeful; something truly beautiful. And I can’t help smiling while reading it.

almost dancing now in the plum / in the tree, they way he did as a person / bent over and biting his lip / and chucking the one hip out / then the other with his elbow cocked / and fists loosely made / and eyes closed and mouth made trumpet / when he knew he could make you happy / just by being a little silly / and sweet /

Such joyous celebration of life what drives this poetry collection into the pure magic that makes Ross’ poems stay with the readers for a long long time.

Another favorite of mine is Becoming a Horse. Words cannot express how much I adore this little gem. Our connection to animals, to nature, and to everything beyond our daily world is powerfully manifested in this short poem. It almost makes me envious of the amount of love and passion Ross has for LIFE.

It was dragging my hands along its belly / loosing the bit and wiping the spit / from its mouth made me / a snatch of grass in the thing’s maw / a fly tasting its ear. It was / touching my nose to his made me know / the clover’s bloom, my wet eye to his / made me know the long field’s secret / But it was putting my heart to the horse’s that made me know the sorrow of horses /

 

Reading Ross’ poems just makes me believe more in the power of poetry. I don’t think any other form of writing can grasp a certain feeling and shake it out of us as well as poetry can. Just like what Ross said in his poem Feet, there is no need for poets to explain what they are trying to do. Just show us the steady mumble and clank of machines in the little factory in your head!

I’m trying, I think, to forgive myself / for something I don’t know what / But what I do know is that I love the moment when the poet says / I am trying to do this / or I am trying to do that / Sometimes it’s a horseshit trick. But sometimes / it’s a way by which the poet says / I wish I could tell you / truly, of the little factory / in my head: the smokestacks / cuffing, the dandelions / and purslane and willows of sweet clover / prying through the blacktop / I wish I could tell you / how inside is the steady mumble and clank of machines/

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The Breakup

This was after we’ve both said bitter things
and the light’s begun to fade. We stopped
at a small fishing village outside Maine.
His stubbled face looked as composed as mine
on that overcast evening, as we stood
at the edge of the hard crag listening
to the waves beat against the solemn rocks
like relentless cries from the ocean’s heart.
And he took a few steps back and said, hey
let’s get back to the car and keep going.
And I thought maybe he too was afraid
to listen – this sound we heard everywhere
we went but it left us still so broken.
At night the wind came from the sea and made
the lonely grey poplars murmur more tunes.
He did not notice, and I – although I
didn’t believe there could be more – still I
sat up in the hushed car and listened.

 

Originally published on January 22nd, 2016 on my old blog. 

The Great Pine In Our Land

Between sunrise and bedtime,
everything is believed and therefore
blessed. I come from a bleak land
where the sun never lingers
long enough for us to trust
the open arms of darkness.

Sometimes night comes so fast,
like galloping steeds bearing shadows,
that children forget hunger
and kneel down to pray

around the towering great pine
in the middle of our land where
an old man hums a tune as he
gives his faithful dog a piece of three-day-old
bread. The pigeon comes and snatches it away
from the old man’s palm before the dog
could open its mouth.

The scene repeats itself when fish is absent
from the oceans.

Repeats itself when roses are unreturned
to the gardens.

Repeats itself when the dog remains hungry,
and the pigeon fattens by flour and stolen glory.

And above the circle of our praying children,
the scene repeats itself in the obedient bones
of our fathers, in the yellowing skins of our mothers,
and in the collected debris of our patient existence.

And it won’t stop repeating itself
until the distance is undone
by the lifetime of a poor laboring snail;
until it’s sunrise when everything is believed
and therefore blessed.

The old man, sitting under the great pine
in the middle of our land, never stops
giving bread.

Fall’s Kingdom

On the first day of your claim,
a newborn raises his fist to the faraway trumpets
sounded for the triumphant return of October.

A league of white doves, oracles from the east,
adorn your royal robe with rain-soaked wreaths.
Before the trembling days and the darkened horses,
there are rivers, bright stars, and you

of pulpy lips and fecund breasts,
from which milk of nacre flows,
and fattened squash tumble down
into the palms of our arid endurance.

Your hair is golden as the maple leaves;
your breath is the scent of an apple orchard;
your earlobes, sweet
as the ripened grapes hanging from heaven’s vines,
have been kissed and kissed
by the doting peasants.

On your brow rests the throne of a butterfly,
dignified and full of sunlight.
Those beating wings reign over your vision.
We shall never despair.
We shall never die for want of another lilac
for as long as your courage perseveres.
The hapless take refuge under your sleeves;
the unworthy flee like indignant black moths.
Only one remains. Only one remains.
He is the great oak beneath the harvest moon.
As he bows to your grace, acorns fall to their deaths,
a season’s offering, a tribute to your life.

Your Kingdom.

 

Originally published on September 20th, 2015 on my old blog.