Ross Gay was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and grew up just outside of Philadelphia. He is the author of two books of poems, Against Which (CavanKerry Press 2006) and Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). He is also the co-author, with the painter Kimberly Thomas, of the artists' books The Halo, BRN2HNT, and The Bullet. Ross is an editor with the chapbook press, Q Avenue, which has published early work by Matthew Dickman, Simone White, Chris Mattingly, and Layli Long Soldier. He has been a Cave Canem fellow and a Bread Loaf tuition scholar, and is a 2013 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Ross is also a founding member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a publicly owned, volunteer-run, free-fruit-for-all, organic orchard, where he serves as the co-chair of the education team. Ross teaches in the M.F.A. program at Indiana University and in Drew University's Low-Residency M.F.A. program.
Alexander Lumans graduated from the M.F.A. Fiction Program at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He has been awarded fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, ART342, and Norton Island Residency. He received scholarships to Bread Loaf, RopeWalk, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, where he was a Tennessee Williams Scholar. He received the 2013 Gulf Coast Fiction Prize, third place in the 2012 Story Quarterly Fiction Contest, and the 2011 Barry Hannah Fiction Prize from The Yalobusha Review. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Story Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Cincinnati Review, and The Normal School, among others. He is co-editor of the anthology Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days (December 2012, Upper Rubber Boot Books).
The birdman comes to the farm in the morning. One per household in town, too; dozens in all. His legs are the pink of cow tongues, his beak long enough to swallow saplings. He spits, but only when he speaks. And when he stands up straight—a rare thing—he is as tall as a chimney. We're not supposed to stare into those melon-sized eyes; we must wear cooking pots on our heads and look dumb doing so. In our yard, our birdman beats his white wings while my wife and I hurry to his clawfeet with our small, bundled offering. The giant, malformed stork commands, "Feed us your softest child."
You would think he'd eat the child right then and there—but he never does.
At first the birdmen returned every two years. We gave them our runts, the sickly, the most misbehaved children; we took the visits as a blessing. The Great Claiming, the town called it. Then, the Claiming came every year. If you moved away, they found you. But all the songbirds still left. Ducks and hawks, too. Only the crows stuck around. We kept our good sons and daughters hidden. We stopped naming the ones we sacrificed; it made the whole thing easier. And now that it's twice a year—every March and October—we risk our own life and limb to keep up.
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