April 11, 2017
Ode to Drinking Water from My Hands

—Ross Gay
Posted in celebration of National Poetry Month

which today, in the garden,
I’d forgotten
I’d known and more
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.

—Ross Gay (Monroe County)

This poem is from Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015) and first appeared in Exit 7. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA  15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Ross Gay teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington.  His most recent book is Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. His previous collections are Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down.

Poetry Prompt: Ode to an Act
Write a poem praising some simple action, such as whistling, peeling an apple, kneading dough, or braiding hair. When did you first learn to do this? Who taught you? What significance does it have for you? 

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.

Posted In: Poetry

One response to “Ode to Drinking Water from My Hands”

  1. Norbert Krapf says:

    Like this poem, Ross. You take us deeper and deeper into what you drink and where and who you come from.

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