“Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be” by Ross Gay

—after Steve Scafidi

The way the universe sat waiting to become,
quietly, in the nether of space and time,

you too remain some cellular snuggle
dangling between my legs, curled in the warm

swim of my mostly quietest self. If you come to be—
And who knows?—I wonder, little bubble

of unbudded capillaries, little one ever aswirl
in my vascular galaxies, what would you think

of this world which turns itself steadily
into an oblivion that hurts, and hurts bad?

Would you curse me my careless caressing you
into this world or would you rise up

and, mustering all your strength into that tiny throat
which one day, no doubt, would grow big and strong,

scream and scream and scream until you break the back of one injustice,
or at least get to your knees to kiss back to life

some roadkill? I have so many questions for you,
for you are closer to me than anyone

has ever been, tumbling, as you are, this second,
through my heart’s every chamber, your teeny mouth

singing along with the half-broke workhorse’s steady boom and gasp.
And since we’re talking today I should tell you,

though I know you sneak a peek sometimes
through your father’s eyes, it’s a glorious day,

and there are millions of leaves collecting against the curbs,
and they’re the most delicate shade of gold

we’ve ever seen and must favor the transparent
wings of the angels you’re swimming with, little angel.

And as to your mother—well, I don’t know—
but my guess is that lilac bursts from her throat

and she is both honeybee and wasp and some kind of moan to boot
and probably she dances in the morning—

but who knows? You’ll swim beneath that bridge if it comes.
For now let me tell you about the bush called honeysuckle

that the sad call a weed, and how you could push your little
sun-licked face into the throngs and breathe and breathe.

Sweetness would be your name, and you would wonder why
four of your teeth are so sharp, and the tiny mountain range

of your knuckles so hard. And you would throw back your head
and open your mouth at the cows lowing their human songs

in the field, and the pigs swimming in shit and clover,
and everything on this earth, little dreamer, little dreamer

of the new world, holy, every rain drop and sand grain and blade
of grass worthy of gasp and joy and love, tiny shaman,

tiny blood thrust, tiny trillion cells trilling and trilling,
little dreamer, little hard hat, little heartbeat,

little best of me.

Ross Gay, “Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be” from Bringing the Shovel Down.  Copyright © 2011 by Ross Gay.

4 thoughts on ““Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be” by Ross Gay

    1. Doesn’t it?! I love Ross’s poems, he’s one of the few I actually prefer performed, with him doing the performing. His words—while beautiful on paper—truly come alive when he gives his eloquent voice to them.

      (I have a special piece by Ross planned this week. It breaks my heart and lifts it at the same time…I just wasn’t quite ready to share it yet.)

      I found this for you:

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Brian Dean Powers

    Thank you for that! He spoke with the pace I had imagined, although in my imagination the reader goes faster and faster, a crescendo ending in ecstasy.


  2. “curled in the warm swim of my mostly quietest self” – soooo beautiful.
    I love that you added him reading, too.
    Makes my heart happy – his words are so vivid…reminds of when I used to look at my pregnant belly and talk to the wiggly person just under the surface.


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