poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

In 1956, Forrest Gander was born in Barstow, California. He attended the College of William and Mary and received an MA from San Francisco State University. He holds degrees in both geology and literature.

Gander is the author of several collections of poetry, including Eye Against Eye (New Directions Press, 2005); Torn Awake (2001); Science & Steepleflower (1998); Deeds of Utmost Kindness (1994); Lynchburg (1993); and Rush to the Lake (1988).

He is the editor of Mouth to Mouth: 12 Contemporary Mexican Women Poets (1993), a bilingual anthology of contemporary Mexican poets, and the translator of No Shelter: The Selected Poems of Pura López Colomé. He also co-translated Immanent Visitor: The Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz with Kent Johnson.

Gander edits Lost Roads Publishers with poet C. D. Wright. His collection of essays, A Faithful Existence, was published in 2005.

"Forrest Gander is a Southern poet of a relatively rare kind, a restlessly experimental writer," wrote poet Robert Hass.

Gander's honors include a Whiting Award, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative North American Writing, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Yaddo.

Gander is professor of English and comparative literature at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Ark Upon His Shoulders

Forrest Gander

My husband did all this.          We used to live
in a rambling kind of house   with gossipy verandas.
Then he bought a stove, an iron stove    with a reservoir to it.
He always insisted it was bad luck    to come in that door
and go out the other. It's bad luck   to pay back salt
if you borrow it.      To the day he died
he smelled     pulled up from the dirt. He worked
the Norfolk Southern forty years       walking on top
of freight trains. I've seen him     up there
and the wind just blowing--    you could see the wind
blowing his clothes.
               Our second house                    he built it.
Cut me a yard broom     from dogwood bushes,
tied in three places. Hogs   squealed under the floorboards
in winter--you could see one    through the cracks.
He had something he said   to hush them.
Come up the porch steps      arms full of lightwood.
In those days      we drank good old cool water
out of the well--cool and   put some syrup in it
and stir it up     and drink it right along
with our dinner. The summers were    so hot you saw
little devils    twizzling out in front of you.
He called them    lazy jacks. It was the heat.
Listen at that bird,    he'd say. It's telling us,
Love one another. He caught    a ride back
from town with seeds and a hoop    of greasy cheese and crackers and
sardines and light    bread. He carried that umbrella
over me and I        would have his hat walking to church.
We lost the first one.      The midwife came late, she used dirt-
dauber tea for my pains.        He tried telling me
it wasn't any death owl, it was   a ordinary hoot owl outside
the house. But I tied a knot   in my sheet
so it wouldn't quiver.      I was in such trouble,
he petted me a lot. Three days    labor he attended me
how a dragonfly hovers    over water in the clear sun.
The next year we had a beautiful    girl baby, Ruthie.
Ruthie, after my mother.   Towards the end,
he was a bit thick-listed.      I never yelled though, he read my lips.
When the katydid    chirps, I miss him
saying there'll be forty days until frost.     Ones who were in trouble
they always     sought him out. Listen
at that bird, he'd say.
The things he knew   how to do he did them.

From Science & Steepleflower by Forrest Gander. Copyright © 1997 by Forrest Gander. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

From Science & Steepleflower by Forrest Gander. Copyright © 1997 by Forrest Gander. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Forrest Gander

Forrest Gander

Forest Gander is the author of several poetry collections, including Eye Against Eye (New Directions Press, 2005).

by this poet

                      for C

                                               Through my torso, the smooth
                           diffusion of aguas ardientes.  Another
            shot.  Dawn.  

                                               Fan whir covers distant

As if nothing were wrong egrets dip-feed in near shore channels

the human genome reveals chromosomes from parasites

annexed by our DNA long ago

mongrels to the core and tourists

with cameras take the front pews

the enemy blows himself up at Passover dinner

the enemy trembles in a

Could have been
otherwise and 
birdsong make us 
nauseous. And
gigantic roiling sunsets
give us vertigo. The
world of flowers is
for insects, not 
us. But tonic
is durance among.