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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).
 

To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian

Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
looking up
the racket in
the lugwork probably
rehearsing some
stupid thing I
said or did
some crime or
other the city they
say is a lonely
place until yes
the sound of sweeping
and a woman
yes with a
broom beneath
which you are now
too the canopy
of a fig its
arms pulling the
September sun to it
and she
has a hose too
and so works hard
rinsing and scrubbing
the walk
lest some poor sod
slip on the
silk of a fig
and break his hip
and not probably
reach over to gobble up
the perpetrator
the light catches
the veins in her hands
when I ask about
the tree they
flutter in the air and
she says take
as much as
you can
help me
so I load my
pockets and mouth
and she points
to the step-ladder against
the wall to
mean more but
I was without a
sack so my meager
plunder would have to
suffice and an old woman
whom gravity
was pulling into
the earth loosed one
from a low slung
branch and its eye
wept like hers
which she dabbed
with a kerchief as she
cleaved the fig with
what remained of her
teeth and soon there were
eight or nine
people gathered beneath
the tree looking into
it like a
constellation pointing
do you see it
and I am tall and so
good for these things
and a bald man even
told me so
when I grabbed three
or four for
him reaching into the
giddy throngs of
yellow-jackets sugar
stoned which he only
pointed to smiling and
rubbing his stomach
I mean he was really rubbing his stomach
like there was a baby
in there
it was hot his
head shone while he
offered recipes to the
group using words which
I couldn’t understand and besides
I was a little
tipsy on the dance
of the velvety heart rolling
in my mouth
pulling me down and
down into the
oldest countries of my
body where I ate my first fig
from the hand of a man who escaped his country
by swimming through the night
and maybe
never said more than
five words to me
at once but gave me
figs and a man on his way
to work hops twice
to reach at last his
fig which he smiles at and calls
baby, c’mere baby,
he says and blows a kiss
to the tree which everyone knows
cannot grow this far north
being Mediterranean
and favoring the rocky, sun-baked soils
of Jordan and Sicily
but no one told the fig tree
or the immigrants
there is a way
the fig tree grows
in groves it wants,
it seems, to hold us,
yes I am anthropomorphizing
goddammit I have twice
in the last thirty seconds
rubbed my sweaty
forearm into someone else’s
sweaty shoulder
gleeful eating out of each other’s hands
on Christian St.
in Philadelphia a city like most
which has murdered its own
people
this is true
we are feeding each other
from a tree
at the corner of Christian and 9th
strangers maybe
never again.

Copyright © 2013 by Ross Gay. Originally published in the May-June 2013 issue of American Poetry Review. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2013 by Ross Gay. Originally published in the May-June 2013 issue of American Poetry Review. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

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.

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