from "Apocalipsixtlán" [12. A Second Crack in the Earth]

Rigoberto González - 1970-

The pond of bones begins to rattle. Even Mother’s
     throne collapses, her body disassembles. The ground
turns to quicksand as it trembles and swallows
     every socket, every thorn, every pebble. In a single
gulp the bed beneath the Smaller Ones swirls down
     a funnel. The earth has groaned like this before.
We know what to expect though it doesn’t help
     us guess which plate will lift its crust and which
will crumble. The dust is blinding. It separates us
     as we scramble. Unknowingly, some of us run

right into the opening and plummet. We hear
     no screams. We hear no cough though we see us
spitting ink—the gas unleashed has cooked our
     lungs. Slowly the collective gathers in the shadow
of the clouds. We must guide our shattered spirits
     to a shelter before the mists release their acid.
In our ears the ringing doesn’t stop. It will take
     a week and some of us will get the sickness—that
rabid urge to kill and tear apart what’s whole.
     We fear no second crack. We fear another purge.

We wrap our arms around our bodies, swaying back
     and forth—we’re motherless cradles, candle stubs
whose flames have melted down to callus. We are
     silent but for the piercing shrill inside our heads.
Cocooned in misery, we might have missed this
     spark of light entirely, but there it is, lifting heavy
chins from chests: a firefly—an actual firefly,
     beautiful bug from our fantasy game, a reality
here among the detritus of the world, rising from
     its dregs, a flicker, a flash, a wink of vital breath.

We try to catch the little star but it eludes our grasp.
     We let it be, it comes to rest upon a knee. Dare we
ask if this means the planet now spins in opposite
     direction? Does it begin to mend its ruptures, unclog
its river paths? The firefly fades but its ghost remains.
     No more dreams, no more questions. Sleep, tiny hope,
we do not know what threats or sorrows we’ll
     encounter next. Tomorrow is a story for those who
make it through the present chronicle—uncertainty,
     scarcity—we the ephemeral have inherited this earth.

More by Rigoberto González

La Pelona as Birdwoman [excerpt]

Tonight
I dared to crawl
beneath the sheets

to be nailed down
around me,
waiting for my lover, she

who enters
without knocking, she
who will unstitch

my every seam
along my thigh,
my side, my armpit.

She who carves
a heart out of the heart
and drops it

down her throat.
Sweet surrender this
slow death in sleep

as I dream
the love-making
is autopsy. How else

will I be hers
completely? Be her
treasure box I said:

a trove of pearls
and stones, the ding
of coins cascading

through her fingers.
The bird over her shoulder
not a parrot, but an owl

to be my mirror
when I close my eyes
and shape a moon-white

bowl out of my face
where she can wash
the hooks of her caress.

Gila

It's no curse
        dragging my belly across
                the steaming sand all day.
        I'm as thick as a callus
                that has shorn off its leg.

If you find me I can explain
        the trail made by a single limb.

                I am not a ghost.
Do not be afraid.

Though there are ghosts here—
        they strip down to wind
                or slump against rock to evaporate.

        Sometimes I crawl beneath the shedding,
backing up into the flesh pit for shade.
        Praise the final moisture of the mouth, its crown
                of teeth that sparkles with silver or gold.

I make a throne of the body
        until it begins to decay.

                And then I'll toss the frock—
death by hunger, death by heat—
        off the pimples of my skin.

        Don't you dare come into my kingdom,
peasant, without paying respect on your knees!

        What generous act did I commit
in my previous life, that I should be
                rewarded with this paradise:

a garden in which every tree that takes root here
        drops its fruit eye-level to me.

things that shine in the night

—from "The Bordercrosser's Pillowbook"

Fulgencio's silver crown—when he snores
the moon, coin of Judas, glaring
at the smaller metals we call stars
my buckle
the tips of my boots
the stones in my kidneys
an earring
a tear on the cheek
the forked paths of a zipper
the blade of the pocketknife triggering open
the blade of the pocketknife seducing the orange
the blade of the pocketknife salivating
the blade of the pocketknife
the word México
the word migra