Four poems by Ray Gonzalez

Ray Gonzalez

Ray Gonzalez

Ray Gonzalez is the author of fifteen books of poetry including Soul Over Lightning (University of Arizona Press, 2014) and the forthcoming Beautiful Wall (BOA Editions, 2015). Other books include The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande (BOA, 2003 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry), and Turtle Pictures (Arizona, 2001 Minnesota Book Award). His work appeared in Best American Poetry 2014 (Scribners). A native of El Paso, he teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

A Bird Inside the Building

A bird fluttering inside the huge building, its repetitive pattern like the same window opening and closing, trapping the assumption inside, following its frantic arcs to form mercy at the closed doors to imagined freedom at the high walls, assistance in the form of light that supports wings because the master silence is flight absolved when the bird vanishes inside the building-all the windows open, the bird repeating the pattern of arcs and landings that resemble its mate hovering outside, trying to find a way in.




Three Snow Storms

If you were yourself,
the snow falling outside
the window would resemble
your father's shaved whiskers
dropping slowly to the floor.


I stare at you in the photo
and see the white beard
where the poem of
the face is hidden.

The poem of the face
leads to the heart
where the words
we will never write
sit like proud men, 
sweating in their

I study you in the photo
and agree the weak crow
killed by its own
falls off the tree
to mark the ground
because ground is
marked only once
for men with
white hair.


The white storm
pushes me into
the canyon where
the poetry of shadows
emerges when I reach up
to the petroglyph on
the red wall, snow
hiding the lines
carved to save me
from what 
I do not know.




Photo of Pablo Picasso With his Shirt Off

The hairy chests of men always get in the way.
You can love the bald approach, though

it will kill you when the world sees
your painting is the keyhole to the other

world where men's nipples are actually
dark moon craters on secret maps

woven into their shirts.
The hairy look of genius gets in the way.

You can smear the paint on your cheeks
and say it was madness, broken love,

some idea of fame that made you create.
When history enters the burned museum,

they will find you there, your shirt on,
the buttons gleaming like the stars.

The hairy chests of men will get in the way.
You will worship the brilliant stroke, the act,

a charcoal bull snorting and tossing itself into
your heart, making you finally take off your shirt

to show your chest because your sternum is
the arch sheltering the last sacrificial cave.




If by Chance, The Child Prodigy

The northern stars demand 
the southern stars go home.  
Instructions say the planets 
should not be written about 
unless the child prodigy is there, 
resurrected as a thought in 
a handwritten note dropped 
in a school playground.
The telegram floats like a guide 
to the burial sites and the color of 
the eyes that sit in their skulls.  
The northern stars draw closer 
and the galaxy changes into 
a pie plate used by a pioneer 
woman in a rotting cabin on 
the plains of Nebraska in 1882.

It was a voyage intended for love, 
but clouds over the territories 
prevented such a thing.  
The southern stars realign 
the black hole as the universe 
intended-no dark star in 
the root of all things.
Pursued with Venus and Pluto, 
the buffalo herd makes it 
across the continent.  
If by chance, the child prodigy 
slices a meteor with her mind, 
this will not take place.
Men will climb down 
stone steps to have a look.  
Star charts will be abolished 
and contaminated gardens 
will take their place.

The northern hand grasps 
the southern hand and the smell 
between them floats eastward.  
The western reaches do not 
shake hands with approaching 
civilizations, canyons, 
unused wooden weapons 
and worn sandals, 
even the empire at rest.
Women run up the stone 
steps because they have 
no reason to look.  
If by chance, the child prodigy 
traces a blood canal in her 
spinal cord, the tribe 
will be changed.
Devastations will thrive 
in perfect silence.  
Linear ideas and lessons 
will be perceived.  
The fury created by such 
a philosophy will raise 
casualties and the nation 
will pull out of the country 
where the coffins thrive.
Eastern constellations shall 
outnumber western nebulas, 
though the path of the starship 
was plotted in the books 
eight thousand years ago. 

Children in dusty schoolrooms, 
textbooks turning yellow 
on shelves against back walls,
cults and believers presenting 
websites for tracking the northern 
and southern stars.
If by chance, the child prodigy 
survives the cluster bomb, 
let her walk again because 
her bloody feet can still 
move across the ground 
without renaming the earth.