The poetry and prose of Ross Gay (1974-) so often reminds me of all the beauty and joy in this intense world we navigate every day.
for Keith and Jen
Friends I am here to modestly report seeing in an orchard in my town a goldfinch kissing a sunflower again and again dangling upside down by its tiny claws steadying itself by snapping open like an old-timey fan its wings again and again, until, swooning, it tumbled off and swooped back to the very same perch, where the sunflower curled its giant swirling of seeds around the bird and leaned back to admire the soft wind nudging the bird’s plumage, and friends I could see the points on the flower’s stately crown soften and curl inward as it almost indiscernibly lifted the food of its body to the bird’s nuzzling mouth whose fervor I could hear from oh 20 or 30 feet away and see from the tiny hulls that sailed from their good racket, which good racket, I have to say was making me blush, and rock up on my tippy-toes, and just barely purse my lips with what I realize now was being, simply, glad, which such love, if we let it, makes us feel.
In honor of Earth Day, here is a beautifully thoughtful poem from one of my favorite contemporary poets, Ada Limón (1976-).
“Of Roots & Roamers”
Have you ever noticed how the trees change from state to state? Not all at once, of course, more like a weaver gradually weaving in another color until the old trees become scarce and new trees offer a shaded kingdom all their own. Before I knew the names of towns or roads, I could recognize places by the trees: Northern California’s smooth-skinned madrone, looming eucalyptus, fuzzy fragrant flowers of the acacia. So much of America belongs to the trees. Even when we can’t agree on much, there’s still the man returning from his late shift at the local bar, who takes a long look at the bird’s nest in the maple, pats the trunk like a friend’s forearm, mumbles something about staying safe and returns home. And the girl whose slapdash tree fort we can see from our blurry window, how she stands there to wave at a world she does not even know the half of yet. My grandmother once complained she couldn’t see much of America on her cross country trip because it was all just trees. Ask her, she’ll laugh as she tells you. Still, without the bother of licenses or attention to a state line, a border, they just grow where they’ve grown all their lives: there, a small stand of white pine arrives, there, a redwood begins to show itself along the coastline, water oaks in the south, willows. Their power is in not moving, so we must move to them.
I love the way the black ants use their dead. They carry them off like warriors on their steel backs. They spend hours struggling, lifting, dragging (it is not grisly as it would be for us, to carry them back to be eaten), so that every part will be of service. I think of my husband at his father’s grave— the grass had closed over the headstone, and the name had disappeared. He took out his pocket knife and cut the grass away, he swept it with his handkerchief to make it clear. “Is this the way we’ll be forgotten?” And he bent down over the grave and wept.