Ray Gonzalez



If you could answer the petroglyph, the palm of your hand would be drawn on the wall.  If you could repeat the sound, you would not stand there, but hide.  If you could avoid going back to the patterns, you would leave the buried earth and turn your attention to the crawling lines on the forehead of a living sign, the forsaken mark drawn by the blue vein that did not mount the wall to be preserved as an undecipherable moment of a private life, its dangerous dimensions rewriting the text before your face.

If you could question the petroglyph, the palms of your eyes would be excused from their blindness, the image becoming the pattern of hope where your attempts to make sense out of historic damage are simply acts that hold back the crumbling surface, the markings being there to announce a silence that will eat your insides because the ancient squares and diamond shapes were incorrectly identified as triangles and circles.

If you could redraw the petroglyph, the interference would crack the surface and allow the art to be preserved under glass, this crime changing the uses of your toes in a disasterous century where the vanishing point of what you lack is actually a stone worm coming out of the wall next to the symbols, crawling down the wall toward your feet in the sand.  


And by the eagles that peck at me,

I wake, bend to the river and drink.

I grow old and see the mountain for what it is.

I escape barefoot, reach the sea and bow to pray,

find my limping father coming toward me,

wrinkled and full of regret.

And by those eagles, the rattlesnake crawls,

wishing it could reach me and strike my heart as

illegal men cross to this side to share pieces of meat.

I eat grains of dirt, instead, the crunching sound

of my new tongue burning in the sun

for not being taught the word for house.

And by those eagles, I am given a rattle,

a book that won’t open until I write it,

my ancestors rising to act out what I have written.

And by those feathers, my mother gives birth

to a brother I never knew, then buries something

in the sand without looking at me.

Years later, I dig it up, surprised the secret is still there

so I can turn on my captors and feed on them.

And by the eagles that peck at me in return, I am freed.


after Federico Garcia Lorca and Victor Hernandez Cruz

My city is full of insects.

They bristle inside my brain

because I walked down the wrong street,

their wings changing what I was going to say,

twisting my tongue until I started

thinking all over again.

My city is full of insects because

I was born in the wrong house,

this idea escaping my throat because

beetles buzz the air, the constant fly

circling my head as if it owns my eyes

and wants to spring down

my open mouth.

My city is full of insects

and I live in the unpaved streets,

sand mixing with fire ants that

loved my legs, the stings and blisters

sending me flying over the houses.

My city is full of insects because

freedom is about the cucaracha

crawling up my arm as it disappears

inside my chest.

When I scratch from wisdom and want,

the cucaracha comes apart, its brittle

legs falling off my tongue.

I spit strange, smart words in

the dirt that leads to the house

where the scorpions were born.

My city is full of insects because

dust clouds from old days

refuse to blow away,

mosquitoes hovering in the sewers,

the alleys, even in the water in

the sink where my head was dunked

until I came up coughing, throwing

up the last piece of paper I swallowed

after I swatted the garapata that survives

the poem on the page, the lice of time

mistaken for the germ of tomorrow

when my city cures itself of insects by

spraying fumes of magic I must escape.

Ray Gonzalez is the author of ten books of poetry, including five from BOA Editions--The Heat of Arrivals  (1997 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award),  Cabato Sentora  (2000 Minnesota Book Award Finalist),  The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande  (winner of a 2003 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry) and  Consideration of the Guitar: New and   Selected Poems  (2005) and the forthcoming Cool Auditor (2009).    Turtle Pictures  (Arizona, 2000), a mixed-genre text, received the 2001 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry.  His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of  The Best American Poetry  (Scribners) and  The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses 2000  (Pushcart Press). He is also the author of three collections of essays,  The Underground Heart:  A Return to a Hidden Landscape  (Arizona, 2002), which received the 2003 Carr P. Collins/ Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Book of Non-fiction, was named one of ten Best Southwest Books of the Year by the Arizona Humanities Commission, named one of the Best Non-fiction Books of the Year by the Rocky Mountain News, named a Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Memoir, and selected as a Book of the Month by the El Paso Public Library,   Memory Fever  (University of Arizona Press, 1999), a memoir about growing up in the Southwest, and  Renaming the   Earth: Personal Essays  (Arizona, 2008).  He has written two collections of short stories,  The Ghost   of John Wayne  (Arizona, 2001, winner of a 2002 Western Heritage Award for Best Short Story and a 2002 Latino Heritage Award in Literature) and  Circling the Tortilla Dragon  (Creative Arts, 2002).  His second mixed-genre text,  The Religion of Hands  (volume two of the  Turtle Pictures  trilogy) was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2005.  He is the editor of twelve anthologies, most recently  No Boundaries: Prose   Poems by 24 American Poets  (Tupelo Press, 2002).  He has served as Poetry Editor of The Bloomsbury Review for twenty-two years and founded LUNA, a poetry journal, in 1998.  He is Full Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and also teaches in the Solstice low residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College in Boston.