by Ross Gay
Foreword by Gerald Stern
- ForeWord Book of the Year Honorable Mention 2006
What Ross Gay sees, what he sings about, is a crippled woman taking a walk in her wheel-chair through the agency of the poet’s strong hands; or two brothers embracing in the death chamber, and the untranslatable song between them; or recovery from pain coalescing with the beginning of spring; or the glorious sexy vision of an ankle, or a midriff; or the blue whale’s deep-sea love scream; or football season in late October. He also sings about the rage and violence inside and the urge to destroy; and the horror of Alzheimer’s; and murder; and cancer; and butchered animals and cannibalism; and lynching; and the bullet’s journey—almost, almost too neatly the reverse side of the coin, as if one could prove the other—or lived by the other—as if, in the dream of light, he cannot allow himself to forget the darkness, he is so given over to the honest and accurate rendering, or as if he allows himself a final affirmation so long as he admits, or incorporates, the negative. —Gerald Stern
Whether he’s talking about the pain of slavery or a child being beaten up on a playground, Ross Gay’s Against Which suggests poetry as the way by which we might understand “birth’s phantom limb.” It makes me think of poetry in an entirely new way. —Toi Derricotte
What a hammer, what a velvet wrecking ball, what a rip tooth saw Against Which is! Ross Gay is a terrific poet of enormous energies and gifts whose poems both “terrify and comfort,” as Berryman put it. This is a book with which we must reckon: read it live. —Thomas Lux
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ROSS GAY was born in Youngstown, Ohio and grew up outside of Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and Atlanta Review, among other journals. Ross is a Cave Canem fellow and has been a Breadloaf Tuition Scholar. In addition to holding a Ph.D in American Literature from Temple University, he is a basketball coach, an occasional demolition man, a painter, and a faculty member at New England College's Low-Residency MFA program.
How to Fall in Love with Your Father
Put your hands beneath his armpits, bend your knees,
wait for the clasp of his thinning arms; the best lock
cheek to cheek. Move slow. Do not, right now,
recall the shapes he traced yesterday
on your back, moments before being wheeled to surgery.
Do not pretend the anxious calligraphy of touch
was sign beyond some unspeakable animal stammer. Do not
go back further into the landscape of silence you both
tended, with body and breath, until it nearly obscured all
but the genetic gravity between you.
And do not imagine wind now blowing that landscape
into a river which spills into a sea. Because it doesn’t.
That’s not this love poem. In this love poem
the son trains himself on the task at hand,
which is simple, which is, finally, the only task
he has ever had, which is lifting
the father to his feet.