Opera Singer

Ross Gay

Today my heart is so goddamned fat with grief 
that I’ve begun hauling it in a wheelbarrow. No. It’s an anvil 
dragging from my neck as I swim 
through choppy waters swollen with the putrid corpses of hippos,
which means lurking, somewhere below, is the hungry 
snout of a croc waiting to spin me into an oblivion 
worse than this run-on simile, which means only to say: 
I’m sad. And everyone knows what that means. 
And in my sadness I’ll walk to a café, 
and not see light in the trees, nor finger the bills in my pocket 
as I pass the boarded houses on the block. No, 
I will be slogging through the obscure country of my sadness 
in all its monotone flourish, and so imagine my surprise 
when my self-absorption gets usurped 
by the sound of opera streaming from an open window, 
and the sun peeks ever-so-slightly from behind his shawl, 
and this singing is getting closer, so that I can hear the 
delicately rolled r’s like a hummingbird fluttering the tongue 
which means a language more beautiful than my own, 
and I don’t recognize the song 
though I’m jogging toward it and can hear the woman’s 
breathing through the record’s imperfections and above me 
two bluebirds dive and dart and a rogue mulberry branch 
leaning over an abandoned lot drags itself across my face, 
staining it purple and looking, now, like a mad warrior of glee 
and relief I run down the street, and I forgot to mention 
the fifty or so kids running behind me, some in diapers, 
some barefoot, all of them winged and waving their pacifiers 
and training wheels and nearly trampling me 
when in a doorway I see a woman in slippers and a floral housedress 
blowing in the warm breeze who is maybe seventy painting the doorway 
and friends, it is not too much to say 
it was heaven sailing from her mouth and all the fish in the sea 
and giraffe saunter and sugar in my tea and the forgotten angles 
of love and every name of the unborn and dead 
from this abuelita only glancing at me 
before turning back to her earnest work of brushstroke and lullaby 
and because we all know the tongue’s clumsy thudding 
makes of miracles anecdotes let me stop here 
and tell you I said thank you.

Bringing the Shovel Down

Last updated December 17, 2022