Beginning with Two Lines from Rexroth

Ray Gonzalez

I see the unwritten books, the unrecorded experiments, the unpainted pictures, the interrupted lives, a staircase leading to a guarantee, the glowing frame of wisdom protecting me from harm after I escape the questions of a lifetime. I see the turning of the pages in a book I have not read, its story proclaiming the reader is going to escape without knowing how the equation injured the moment—sacred leaves rotting in a bottle of rubbing oil, their black designs sinking farther than my reach.

I witness what is made for someone else, its motion calling me to wait for the regions of love where we come back, able to dismiss the picture of ourselves where we can't smile because no one is able to capture time that has not happened and never will. There is no agony and waste, only the steps into the frontier where it is easy to hide.

Even a shoulder bone cracks in the morning light, a man rising at the end of a century where everyone gives him pictures, including one of a translucent scene where the running youth carries the host, his confusion between danger and desire making the boy stop at the bank of the river, turn, and go home. When he gets to the house, he doesn't cry out. When it goes dark and the arguments begin, it is his portrait that is handed to me first because I already arrived at the junction between the lamp and the staircase to the mocking stars.

More by Ray Gonzalez

Tiny Clay Doll with No Arms

Given to me by my sister as a gift,
the tiny Indian doll stands with no arms.

Given to me so I can raise my hands 
and stop the world from coming closer.

Something has been taken from here--
a day when reaching out was death.

Something lost
with my own hands.

The doll stands three inches tall, 
its brown head wrapped in a red scarf.

No arms, as if I could look at a body 
and not welcome it back.

As if I knew what happened
to my grip on those things.

The clay doll stands on my bookshe1f.
It stares out the window.

It does not have any arms.
I don't know why it was carved that way,

don't know what it means,
why the invisible palms hold everything.

When I touch it with a fingertip,
it leans against a book.

It does not fall.
When I set it back

on its bare feet,
I carefully use both hands.

Let Me Disappear

According to scientists, astronauts get taller when they are in space and in Albania, nodding your head means "no" and shaking your head means "yes." This says I am going to disappear and become a parrot, sitting on my perch in some strange woman's living room, ready to imitate everything she has to say to her illicit lover over the phone. Maybe I won't have to speak in the shrill voice of parrots, but simply nod and shake my head, getting it right, unlike the Albanians. St. Paul, Minnesota was originally called Pig's Eye after a man named Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant who set up the first business there in the mid-nineteenth century. Well, let me disappear because I live about twelve miles south of St. Paul's southern city limits and have seen the eyes of pigs quite often. Minnesota is full of them. The last one I saw was tailgating me and almost ran me off the road. Before I could switch lanes, he swerved around me and shot away. About four blocks later, he was pulled over by a cop and given a ticket. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's mother's maiden name was "Moon." That sentence is hard to say. Of course, Buzz was the second man to step onto the moon in 1969. The first was Neil Armstrong, but he had no moons in his family, so he pleaded to Buzz on his knees, "Please, let me go second. Let me go second and every moon lover will love you forever, instead of me." This happened inside the capsule on its way down to the moon. Buzz thought, "Let me disappear," but it was too late. They hit the surface and history was on its way. I don't have a clue what this has to do with me because the only moon in my life rose over the desert skies for the first twenty-five years of my life, until I disappeared. It is why I insist on a dark, moonless night when it is the best time for all men to go away, inspect their dreams, and maybe come back taller, wiser, and able to know the difference between yes and no.

Related Poems

On a Line from Valery (The Gulf War)

Tout le ciel vert se meurt
Le dernier arbre brûle.
The whole green sky is dying.  The last tree flares
With a great burst of supernatural rose
Under a canopy of poisonous airs.

Could we imagine our return to prayers
To end in time before time's final throes,
The green sky dying as the last tree flares?

But we were young in judgement, old in years
Who could make peace; but it was war we chose,
To spread its canopy of poisoning airs.

Not all our children's pleas and women's fears
Could steer us from this hell.  And now God knows
His whole green sky is dying as it flares.

Our crops of wheat have turned to fields of tares.
This dreadful century staggers to its close
And the sky dies for us, its poisoned heirs.

All rain was dust.  Its granules were our tears.
Throats burst as universal winter rose
To kill the whole green sky, the last tree bare
Beneath its canopy of poisoned air.