The Cortland Review

Gerald Stern
Five poems by Gerald Stern.

Christopher Buckley
Michael Burkard
Jeff Friedman
Ross Gay
Jack Gilbert This marks an author's first online publication
Linda Gregg
Jane Hirshfield
Tony Hoagland
Joan Larkin
Dorianne Laux
Jan Heller Levi
Anne Marie Macari
Ed Ochester
Alicia Ostriker
Kathleen Peirce This marks an author's first online publication
Peter Richards
Ira Sadoff
Jean Valentine
Arthur Vogelsang This marks an author's first online publication
Judith Vollmer
Anne Waldman
Peter Waldor
Michael Waters This marks an author's first online publication
"The Final Vocabulary of Gerald Stern" by David Rigsbee.

Book Review
"Save the Last Dance" by Gerald Stern—Book Review, by David Rigsbee.

Ross Gay

Ross Gay's first book is Against Which (CavanKerry Press, 2006). He is the recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts individual artist's grant and is on the faculty at Indiana University and Drew University's low-residency M.F.A. program.

Say It    

If I told you we were slapping the beat to some
Barry White jam crooning from the boombox
and that every single one of us at one point or another
jumped up to shake what shook on us and there were lines of us
in step and a loon in every one of our mouths who knew
and one of us in his pressed shirt dancing his dead father's
hunchbacked smooth and another singing back up like hers
and another shaking his head no but meaning yes,
oh yes—and if I told you the proprietor of this roti joint
dragged his wife from the kitchen where she was busy
currying chana for the best doubles in Brooklyn
so she too might witness this unabashed racket, this stampede
of glee and goof, this clan of black clad—and if I told you
today we laid down one too young
to lay down:
             praise the body its miraculous
stutter and thrum. Praise its slosh and drag and drone
and every bony particulate diving toward the dirt.  
The rampant heart its last kick and holler. The blood
clot's last long swim to the lung. Praise the lung
its last whistle, and the kidney's no more—
say this; say praise
the machine hiss your father became
and the quick way he gave it up; say
praise the liver's dread swell.
Say it again. Say it with your heart and neck
and lent throat gaped and flayed
to the sky. Say it covering someone's hand
with yours, straightening your tie. Say it
to the earth's fat mouth. Say it the way
you can turn on your heel to spark fire and make
your limber hip twist like a lesser storm,
or the way there is a storm between
your two good hips which are good
good music if you listen;
say it in your polished shoes,
to the organist say it too; praise the heart
Its rivers and each rope twisted in the body,
and every bird housed in the body:
vulture, gull, raven, jackrabbit, cask
wick and flame a bird too; say
praise to flame a bird too; praise to the nerve
endings in your teeth, and to your tongue
like a blind man's hand reading
her teeth, and the tongue inside the eyes,
and the nose in the tongue and the heart
in the tongue; say praise to salt,
tear, stain and skin ripped apart
like a kite flipping in the wind, praise
the rip in the kite and the geese flying through it, praise
the wings you swore you had
when you were six years old and the wings
that remain today; praise
every flower you never smelled
and every dog you never kissed, and the skinny farmer
at the market with bad teeth who gave you
his last cantaloupe and peppers and snap peas who
you never kissed, praise the handful of freckles
dashed across your father's face that you never
kissed until he would not wake again; say it;
say it again; say praise the sunlight
trapped on your father's face
and the body's slapdash racket
slipping away
if you want to or not
clean the dirt from your teeth and the glass
from your fists if you want to or not
tie both your shoes and fix your suspenders
and praise
the heart inside the heart
cracking its shackles, its thunderclap
shrug, its two thousand dolphins waving
goodbye. Praise, every day, the two thousand
dolphins waving goodbye. Shaking off
our hearts and waving goodbye.



© 2008 The Cortland Review