Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (2015) (12/11/16)
After sitting and basking a bit in the sweet, fierce, celebratory emotion of this collection, I wondered if there might not be a recording of the author doing a reading. Yes, there is! And so I decided to substitute my daily morning closed-eyed, meditation-cushion sit in silence for one done while listening to a little glory.
In the title poem, a robin tells Gay
in no uncertain terms
to bellow forth the tubas and sousaphones,
the whole rusty brass band of gratitude
not quite dormant in my belly—
it said so in a human voice,
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?
Indeed, most of the poems reveal this bellowing, this huge heart, whether they deal with the pruning of a peach tree, communal feasting beneath a neighborhood fig tree, gratitude toward "knitbone and sweetgrass and sunchoke / and false indigo whose petals stammered apart / by bumblebees good lord please give me a minute . . ." Or more homely subjects, like buttoning and unbuttoning a shirt, or sleeping in one's clothes, or Gay's own toes, which, ashamed, he digs "like ten tiny ostriches into the sand." He even writes about armpits. But really, of course, in so much of this, he's writing about memories, glimmers of truth, feelings, history, connection, love, joy, sorrow and anger too, and above all, gratitude. As he says in "Feet,"
. . . what I do know is that I love the moment when the poet says
I am trying to do this
or I am trying to do that.
Sometimes it's a horseshit trick. But sometimes
it's a way by which the poet says
I wish I could tell you,
truly, of the little factory
in my head: the smokestacks
chuffing, the dandelions
and purslane and willows of sweet clover
prying through the blacktop.
I wish I could tell you
how inside is the steady mumble and clank of machines.
But mostly I wish I could tell you of the footsteps I hear,
more than I can ever count,
all of whose gaits I can discern by listening, closely.
Which promptly disappear
after being lodged again,
here, where we started, in the factory
where loss makes all things
I could go on, but instead I will send you back to the top and urge you to watch the video. Or better yet, close your eyes and just listen.