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Contributor Notes

Ross Gay


Ruptured Aneurysm

If there is a history, and I think there is, I do not
think I own it. Watch its billowed white sail
and gnarled mast rocking toward the horizon's curve,
one see-through slip-knot tethering our each neck
to the hull's gut. Watch that ship's indifferent plod
slice, instead, the widening pool of blood bubbling
a lullaby from the torn grin of flesh glistening beneath
a landowner's chin, and above him, boots wet with that spill's
sprawl, a man who whittled from a throat a window
through which to imagine something like
a future. Look at the wakes in the bloodlake roll
with the same dull crush as the sea's unfurling exhalations,
the ship's course still steady, and constant, the keel now
warted and scarred with the stringy growth of barnacles,
look closely, until you see the thrust of blood
leaning its persistent shoulder through a rip in my aunt's
artery, until you know her intuition and compulsion to tell me
this story, the story of her father, a share-cropper
killing the man who stood between himself
and Cincinnati, and know, as you do, that if she
dies, swallowing this story, she becomes little more
than a frayed string in the braid
of that ship's rope, limp and mute
in the arms of the night sky's
long dead light.


The First Breath

This is the landscape I could live for. Endless
rows of snowdusted fields, the frozen juts
of chopped cornstalks craning their necks
to a thaw. This midwest is not mine- not
the silos butting against a graying and slumped
sky or the high-tension wires
threading acres of soybeans or the dumb sheep
standing knee-deep in slush. This belongs
to the folks of mine who made a life massaging
from the earth enough to feed a family, and some
pigs, enough to post two headstones in nearly
that same earth: one of whom has become that earth,
and the other who wishes as much. It's a cold
winter out here. Everything left standing wishes
it had gone to sleep in the fall; even the trees
will laugh and spit when you promise them
a spring and soil worth drinking from. But the old
man, he knows better, he's been at it all his life. He
can sense a thaw around the corner, a sort of quiet opening,
he's always thought. And if you see him sitting in his
rocker, eyeing the slumped pine-branches burning
off their frozen burden, you'll notice that he's already
gone down into that earth, dreaming
of the first breath of soil.