from "Apocalipsixtlán" [5. Signs of the End of the World]
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.
From The Book of Ruin. Copyright © 2019 by Rigoberto González. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books.
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: 2019-04-04
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/apocalipsixtlan-5-signs-end-world