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    Poem Analysis: A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay

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    How can a community filled with mayhem and racial discrimination live in a garden filled with colorful flowers, nature, and bees? Ross Gays “A Small Needful Fact” is able to capture the essence of the beauty and importance of a garden, along with layers of a deep and complex references to the issue arising in today’s society; civil rights violations based on racial discrimination. By the use of imagery and specific word choice, the speaker shows distressed emotions towards police brutality, as well as the misuse of exercised power between citizen and authority. In the poem the speaker uses specific word choice to demonstrate the pure rightnessess, lack of guile, and corruption of Eric Garner; a man who was killed because of the failure of his community and authoritative figures. In the poem, Gay describes Eric Garner, an African American man who was choked to death by a police officer.

    In the poem he had a position as a gardener, helping the organisms that assist people’s breath, which shows the irony of how he was choked to death. Garner was portrayed to be a nice guy with a warm and friendly character. The speaker describes the plants in such a way that they…. do what such plants do, like house and feed small and necessary creatures. Like being pleasant to touch and smell, like converting sunlight into food, like making it easier for us to breathe (10-15). The words such as “ easier” (14), “ pleasant” (12), “ converting”(13), and “ breathe” (15) show the paradox like lines of Garners tragedy; his work making it easier for people to breathe but in consequence for that work dieing a victim of suffocation. Furthermore, Garner is remembered to have said “ I can’t breathe.” before dying. This again proves the brutality that harshly inflicted him, and how the choke hold was held so violently he did not have a chance to breathe. The lines of this poem also empathize evoked sorrow, and not to mention tension guaranteed for readers.

    Readers are fully aware that Garner was working with plants who in fact not only aid the provision of oxygen; the essential element for all the worlds survival, but also bestow a positive sentiment, knowing that plants are “ pleasant to touch and smell ”(12). This proves how the use of specific word choice evokes the disappointment of community; an innocent man killed because of the failure to have equality between citizen and authority. The speaker also uses imagery to deliver compelling and complex emotions to readers, based on what Garner was doing for his community, and how giving back to his community wrongfully cost him his life. As stated prior, Garner was present at the Horticultural Department which indicates he worked with plants and other organisms. His work was seen to be gentle and good-natured without showing any threat to society.

    During the time Garner was working at the Horticultural Department he… …worked for some time for the Parks and Rec. Horticultural Department, which means, perhaps, that with his very large hands, perhaps, in all likelihood, he put gently into the earth. (1-6) The speaker’s reference to Garners job again specifies not only the name of his work, but the kind of work he was doing for his community. Additionally, mentioning his time at “ Parks and Rec” are used as a remembrance or commemoration of Eric Garner’s life and the project he was trying to keep alive (2). Lines 4 through 6 talk about the way Garner handled these plants, with grace and benign behaviour as a metaphor for the way he was as an individual; kind and gracious.

    This display of character makes readers feel moved by making them feel guilty and sorrowful in the most discreet way possible. Furthermore, the imagery of Garner puting the plants “ gently” into the ground gives readers a feeling of tranquility to an overall depressing scene. This makes the poem even more powerful and evokes strong emotions within society and current readers besides the obvious anger and sorrow felt for Garner (6). This proves how the speaker uses imagery to deliver compelling and complex emotions to readers based on Garners work for the community, and how giving back to his community was neglected and turned into wrongful termination.

    In conclusion, the use of specific word choice and imagery shows the speakers anguished sentiment towards police brutality, as well as the misuse of exercised power between the powerful and the weak; the citizen and authority. This poem not only shows the sorrowful aspect of Eric’s death, but the light it shines on Garners innocent life taken away. Garner’s death in the poem makes readers distinguishably angry, and evokes change in society. Readers use this poem as an inspiration to make a change to their community, challenge the authority in power, and give power to the oppressed. Hopefully the depth and intensity of the poem will help America’s civil right movements formalize racial discrimination policies and have the people who violate these laws face justice.

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    Poem Analysis: A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay. (2021, May 25). Retrieved from

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