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About this poet

Ross Gay was born on August 1, 1974 in Youngstown, Ohio. He received a BA in English/Art from  Lafayette College, an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and a PhD in English from Temple University.

He is the author of three collections of poetry: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kingsley Tufts Award, Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), and Against Which (Cavankerry Press, 2006).

Gay is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin', and an editor of the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press.

His honors include fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

He currently teaches at Indiana University and in Drew University's Low-Residency MFA program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation. 


Bibliography
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011)
Against Which (Cavankerry Press, 2006).
 

Bringing the Shovel Down

Because I love you, and beneath the uncountable stars
I have become the delicate piston threading itself through your chest,

I want to tell you a story I shouldn’t but will, and in the meantime neglect, Love,
the discordant melody spilling from my ears but attend,

instead, to this tale, for a river burns inside my mouth
and it wants both purgation and to eternally sip your thousand drippings;

and in the story is a dog and unnamed it leads to less heartbreak,
so name him Max, and in the story are neighborhood kids

who spin a yarn about Max like I’m singing to you, except they tell a child,
a boy who only moments earlier had been wending through sticker bushes

to pick juicy rubies, whose chin was, in fact, stained with them,
and combining in their story the big kids make

the boy who shall remain unnamed believe Max to be sick and rabid,
and say his limp and regular smell of piss are just two signs,

but the worst of it, they say, is that he’ll likely find you in the night,
and the big kids do not giggle, and the boy does not giggle,

but lets the final berries in his hand drop into the overgrowth
at his feet, and if I spoke the dream of the unnamed boy

I fear my tongue would turn an arm of fire so I won’t, but
know inside the boy’s head grew a fire beneath the same stars

as you and I, Love, your leg between mine, the fine hairs
on your upper thigh nearly glistening in the night, and the boy,

the night, the incalculable mysteries as he sleeps with a stuffed animal
tucked beneath his chin and rolls tight against his brother

in their shared bed, who rolls away, and you know by now
there is no salve to quell his mind’s roaring machinery

and I shouldn’t tell you, but I will,
the unnamed boy

on the third night of the dreams which harden his soft face
puts on pants and a sweatshirt and quietly takes the spade from the den

and more quietly leaves his house where upstairs his father lies dreamless,
and his mother bends her body into his,

and beneath these same stars, Love, which often, when I study them,
seem to recede like so many of the lies of light,

the boy walks to the yard where Max lives attached to a steel cable
spanning the lawn, and the boy brings hot dogs which he learned

from Tom & Jerry, and nearly urinating in his pants he tosses them
toward the quiet and crippled thing limping across the lawn,

the cable whispering above the dew-slick grass, and Max whimpers,
and the boy sees a wolf where stands this ratty

and sad and groveling dog and beneath these very stars
the boy brings the shovel down

until Max’s hind legs stop twitching and his left ear folds into itself,
and the unnamed boy stares at the rabid wolf whose wild eyes loll white in his head,

taking slow steps backward through the wet grass and feels,
for the first time in days, the breath in his lungs, which is cool,

and a little damp, spilling over his small lips, and he feels,
again, his feet beneath him, and the earth beneath them, and starlings

singing the morning in, and the somber movement of beetles
chewing the leaves of the white birch, glinting in the dark, and he notices,

Darling, an upturned nest beneath the tree, and flips it looking for the blue eggs
of robins, but finds none, and placing a rumpled crimson feather in his mouth

slips the spindly thicket into another tree, which he climbs
to watch the first hint of light glancing above the fields, and the boy

eventually returns to his thorny fruit bush where an occasional prick
leaves on his arm or leg a spot of blood the color of these raspberries

and tasting of salt, and filling his upturned shirt with them he beams
that he could pull from the earth that which might make you smile,

Love, which you’ll find in the fridge, on the bottom shelf, behind the milk,
in the bowl you made with your own lovely hands.

"Bringing the Shovel Down" from Bringing the Shovel Down, by Ross Gay, © 2011. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

"Bringing the Shovel Down" from Bringing the Shovel Down, by Ross Gay, © 2011. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Ross Gay

Ross Gay

Ross Gay is the author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kingsley Tufts Award.

by this poet

poem
Was with the pudgy hands of a thirteen-year-old
that I took the marble of his head
just barely balanced on his reedy neck
and with the brute tutelage
of years fighting the neighbor kids
and too the lightning of my father's
stiff palm I leaned the boy's head
full force into the rattly pane of glass
on the school
poem
Today, November 28th, 2005, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
I am staring at my hands in the common pose
of the hungry and penitent. I am studying again
the emptiness of my clasped hands, wherein I see
my sister-in-law days from birthing 
the small thing which will erase,
in some sense, the mystery of my father's
poem

There is a puritan in me
the brim of whose
hat is so sharp
it could cut
your tongue out
with a brow
so furrowed you
could plant beets
or turnips or
something of course
good for storing
he has not taken a nap
since he was two years old
because he