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.
Copyright © 2012 by Rigoberto González. Used with permission of the author.
Rigoberto González was born in Bakersfield, California, on July 18, 1970, but lived in Michoacán, Mexico, until the age of ten. The son of migrant farm workers, González traveled between the United States and Mexico for much of his childhood. He earned a degree in Humanities and Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of California, Riverside, and an MFA from Arizona State University in Tempe.
González is the author of five poetry collections, including The Book of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2019); Unpeopled Eden (Four Way Books, 2013), winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the 2014 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, given for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States each year; Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (Tupelo Press, 2006); and So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until It Breaks (University of Illinois Press, 1999), which was chosen by the poet Ai for the National Poetry Series.
About Unpeopled Eden, judge Kwame Dawes said: “When a single title is a complex and evocative poem, and when such titles recur throughout a collection of poems, we know we are experiencing a work of signature authority, beauty, urgency and necessity. This is what we experience in the book Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto González —a work of profound lament and excruciating beauty… Rigoberto González is an important American poet, and Unpeopled Eden is a very, very important book.”
Of his debut, Ray Gonzalez wrote: “Rigoberto González returns poetry to the natural river of language. His work makes us cross to the other side of experience. He opens a fresh chapter in the changing book of American poetry in a way few young writers are able to do.”
González is also the author of numerous books of prose, including two bilingual children’s books: Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio (Children’s Book Press, 2005) and Soledad Sigh-Sighs/Soledad Suspiros (Children’s Book Press, 2003). He is the editor of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing (University of Arizona Press, 2010).
González’s honors include the American Book Award, the Poetry Center Book Award, the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America, and a University and College Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
In September 2018, he served as the guest editor for Poem-a-Day. A contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine, González serves on the executive board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, and is professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey. He lives in New York.
The Book of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2019)
Unpeopled Eden (Four Way Books, 2013)
Black Blossoms (Four Way Books, 2011)
Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (Tupelo Press, 2006)
So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until It Breaks (University of Illinois Press, 1999)
Red-Inked Retablos (University of Arizona Press, 2013)
Autobiography of My Hungers (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013)
Men without Bliss (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008)
Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006)
Crossing Vines (University of Oklahoma Press, 2003)
Date Published: 2012-10-10
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/gila