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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Poem(s) of the Week: Opera Singer, Thank You

Though hope and gratitude are always necessary to carry us through, we've needed them perhaps more than ever in the last year. Poet Ross Gay feels like the right prescription for the moment, then: a poet who is honest as he confronts race, current events, and more, but one who also finds abundant joy in daily living and simplicity. Today I bring you two poems that highlight the kind of resilient gratitude that runs like an undercurrent through Gay's poetry: "Opera Singer" and "Thank You." If you like the following poems, check out Gay's humorous and beautiful The Book of Delights that carries him through a year with a brief meditative and candid essay for each day or his newest publication, the book-length poem Be Holding, which celebrates influential basketball player Julius Erving.

Opera Singer

Today my heart is so goddamned fat with grief that I’ve begun hauling it in a wheelbarrow. No. It’s an anvil dragging from my neck as I swim through choppy waters swollen with the putrid corpses of hippos, which means lurking, somewhere below, is the hungry snout of a croc waiting to spin me into an oblivion worse than this run-on simile, which means only to say: I’m sad. And everyone knows what that means. And in my sadness I’ll walk to a café, and not see light in the trees, nor finger the bills in my pocket as I pass the boarded houses on the block. No, I will be slogging through the obscure country of my sadness in all its monotone flourish, and so imagine my surprise when my self-absorption gets usurped by the sound of opera streaming from an open window, and the sun peeks ever-so-slightly from behind his shawl, and this singing is getting closer, so that I can hear the delicately rolled r’s like a hummingbird fluttering the tongue which means a language more beautiful than my own, and I don’t recognize the song though I’m jogging toward it and can hear the woman’s breathing through the record’s imperfections and above me two bluebirds dive and dart and a rogue mulberry branch leaning over an abandoned lot drags itself across my face, staining it purple and looking, now, like a mad warrior of glee and relief I run down the street, and I forgot to mention the fifty or so kids running behind me, some in diapers, some barefoot, all of them winged and waving their pacifiers and training wheels and nearly trampling me when in a doorway I see a woman in slippers and a floral housedress blowing in the warm breeze who is maybe seventy painting the doorway and friends, it is not too much to say it was heaven sailing from her mouth and all the fish in the sea and giraffe saunter and sugar in my tea and the forgotten angles of love and every name of the unborn and dead from this abuelita only glancing at me before turning back to her earnest work of brushstroke and lullaby and because we all know the tongue’s clumsy thudding makes of miracles anecdotes let me stop here and tell you I said thank you.

- Ross Gay


Thank You

If you find yourself half naked and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing, again, the earth's great, sonorous moan that says you are the air of the now and gone, that says all you love will turn to dust, and will meet you there, do not raise your fist. Do not raise your small voice against it. And do not take cover. Instead, curl your toes into the grass, watch the cloud ascending from your lips. Walk through the garden's dormant splendor. Say only, thank you. Thank you.

- Ross Gay

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