from "Apocalipsixtlán" [5. Signs of the End of the World]

- 1970-

The right path. The phrase echoes in our heads
     as we travel west, away from the crack in the earth.
There is no way around it. Some say it connects
     Tierra del Fuego to the North Pole and cuts deep
down to the core—a wound that lets the heat escape
     each minute of the day. When all of the Américas
became a desert, dividing coast from coast, those
     caught in the middle either sunk into the crevice
or sunk into despair. The right path. That’s what
     Those Who Came Before tried to sell us before hell

rose from the bowels of the planet to burn the air
     in every lung. When the animals began to flee
and the birds headed east, we should have guessed
     the doom had come upon us then. But the right path
was not to panic but to study these changes, discuss
    policy, hold town meetings—negotiate. Catastrophe
was just another balloon to deflate. By the time
     the ground beneath our feet began to shake, it
were already too late to save our cities, which had
     turned to liquid we couldn’t drink. Next came thirst.

What comedy to witness humans think they’re
     in control of anything. The new collectives with
the old were just as tired and useless as the past.
     Their lifetime of mistake and misdirection was what
had killed us. Why repeat the leadership? Why
     allow the yesterday to roll its ancient wheels
into the present? Oh preachers of pretense, we
     silenced you. Oh teachers of nonsense, we erased
you. The future is ours, you all said, and the future
     arrived, bleak and black, but with much less room

to move around. A future without windows or doors,
     and one ugly hole in the ground that offers no escape.
What future is this? We asked. And Those Who Came
     Before simply shrugged their shoulders and shook
their heads. When the gas discharged from the opening
     we smelled the answer—sour odor of crimes against
the land and the centuries of death that had been buried
     there. Out flew centuries of damage and buried bodies
to hover above us like magpies shrieking: The crack
     in the earth, it is us. The crack in the earth, it is ours.

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