ode to drinking water from my hands

Ross Gay

which today, in the garden,
I’d forgotten
I’d known and more
forgotten
I’d learned and was taught this
by my grandfather
who, in the midst of arranging
and watering
the small bouquets
on mostly the freshest graves
saw my thirst
and cranked the rusty red pump
bringing forth
from what sounded like the gravelly throat
of an animal
a frigid torrent
and with his hands made a lagoon
from which he drank
and then I drank
before he cranked again
making of my hands, now,
a fountain in which I can see
the silty bottom
drifting while I drink
and drink and
my grandfather waters the flowers
on the graves
among which are his
and his wife’s
unfinished and patient, glistening
after he rinses the bird shit
from his wife’s
and the pump exhales
and I drink
to the bottom of my fountain
and join him
in his work.

 

 

 

 

 
 
In light of the Coronavirus crisis, Poetry Daily has started an impromptu series, What Keeps Us.
For the rest of March, we will post poems to sustain and uplift through trying times. Each poem is accompanied with an image by author-illustrator Juana Medina http://www.juanamedina.com. We thank you for reading and hope that you will share poems with your friends and neighbors. Please be well.

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Ross Gay is the author of three books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released by Algonquin Books in 2019. 

"Like one big celebration bursting with joy . . . Gay's poems burst forth in leggy, unexpected ways, zooming in on legs furred with pollen or soil breast-stroking into the xylem. Gay's praise is Whitmanesque, full of manure, mulberry-stained purple bird poop, dirty clothes and hangovers, but also the pleasure of bare feet, of pruning a peach tree, of feeding a neighbor. . . . Whether you're feeling like you have a whole brass band of gratitude or if you're feeling like you only have a rusty horn, read this book. Gay even thanks you for reading it, saying I can't stop my gratitude, which includes dear reader, you for staying here with me, for moving your lips just so as I speak."
—Tess Taylor, NPR, All Things Considered

“Almost no one has the faith Gay seems to have in poetry's ability to tap grace from the happenings of his life. . . . He looks to the act of writing as real alchemy, and death, disappointment, and inequity become honey in his hands.”
Paris Review

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