376: Finding Time (Ross Gay)

“If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden’s dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
Thank you.”
                -Ross Gay, “Thank You”

                I love the grounding of the first six lines. That’s how the poem works, at least for me: by opening the time to find itself half naked and barefoot in the frosty grass, by listening to the earth’s moan, whether that’s wind or a mind’s misgivings, to feel the dust. Once it’s done that it can move on to telling us what to do. But before the telling there’s the being. So:
                I’m lying on my floor in my third story apartment, our one big window open at my feet, the night air eddying in. Outside there are—cicadas, I think? A regular, rhythmic touch, like night’s a bristled brush and someone’s twitching their fingers along it. Again. Again. I wonder if I can actually smell the basil on the windowsill. Then, because I was wondering, I got up to touch it. Now I’m back on the floor. Its pale green leaves were like the curled ears of some delicate creature. Listening. My partner shifts on the couch, reading. My fingers play out their staccato rhythm. The comparison reminds me of a jazz pianist I saw last semester, someone who held the little hammers from inside a piano and leaned into a grand piano, playing, not by tapping the keys but by tapping the strings themselves. Playing from inside. That brings me, in turn, to a hay barn at my friend’s farm when I’m nine or so, climbing up between the bales. Crawling and chasing each other, and a moment where I sat, quiet, all these gathered feels gathered around me. Like sitting inside summer. Like sitting inside a piano. I made up that I was nine: I don’t know how old I was. There were so many years when that didn’t seem to matter.
                The basil sits still while a little breeze curls in the window, promising the changing leaves, promising a frost, a winter. The floorboards scrape beneath my hair as I shift my head. Funny how, setting out to be here, I found myself in so many places. Opening the time. Funny how, being in so many places, I find myself here. More balanced in the being.
                And yes. Thank you.

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