Ross Gay’s poem “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” uses an everyday task to examine what is made and unmade in small moments. He imagines his fingers opening and closing things, like buttons, the eyes of a dead person, relationships. In doing so, the poem asks us to simply pay attention, today, to what we’re doing with our hands — to understand them as intimate pathways into the stories of our bodies and the stories of our lives.
A question to reflect on after you listen: What have you done with your hands today? What are you opening? What are you closing?
About the Poet:
Ross Gay is a writer and a professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington. His books include the poetry collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a book of essays, The Book of Delights. He is a board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard and a co-founder of The Tenderness Project.
“Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” comes from Ross Gay’s book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Thank you to the University of Pittsburgh Press, who published the book, and gave us permission to use Ross’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.
Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.
The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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