Poets & Writers

A Poet a Day: Sherman Alexie

"Ode to Gray"

A Poet a Day: Sherman Alexie

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.” Enjoy.
— Bill Moyers

Today we hear from Sherman Alexie with his poem “Ode to Grey” and describes how it was first conceived as a tribute to gray suits — inspired by GQ magazine — but later evolved into a reflection on the gray areas of life.

“Ode to Gray”

Has anybody written an ode to gray?

Well, if not, let me be the first. Let me praise

The charcoal pit, tweed suit, and cloudy x-ray

That reveals, to your amateur dismay,

Nothing you understand. Who has been amazed

Enough to write a breathy love song to gray and gray’s

Nearly imperceptible interplay

With other grays? O, how beautiful the haze

Of charcoal pits, tweed suits, and cloudy x-rays

Of airport luggage. I love the dog day,

The long delay, and existential malaise.

Has anybody written an ode to gray?

If not, then let me proceed without delay.

O, let me construct an army made of clay.

Marching, marching, they will be my ode to gray,

To charcoal pit, tweed suit, and cloudy x-ray.

Sherman Alexie is an award-winning poet, novelist, short-story writer, and filmmaker. He has published 22 books including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of a 2007 National Book Award; War Dances, recipient of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award; and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which earned the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book.

Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, was raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. Alexie decided to become a writer while attending Washington State University and in 1992, only a year after leaving WSU, published his first two poetry collections. Alexie’s first collection of short stories was published by Atlantic Monthly Press a year later and his first two novels followed shortly thereafter — Reservation Blues (1995), and Indian Killer (1996).

Watch Bill’s entire 2013 interview with Sherman Alexie.

See all poets in the A Poet a Day Collection.