The Best Poets: Hear From Lambda's Nominees
BY Daniel Reynolds
March 31 2014 7:31 AM ET
From Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Oh father, oh music man
with a whistle instead of a coin
to toss on your walks,
keep these things for us
until we’re ready to come home:
Our baby teeth, fragments of bone
that rattle in a domino box.
Tuck it in your pocket but please
don’t gamble it away
the way you lost our
christening gowns in poker.
We had outgrown them, true,
but what other proof
did we have that all seven
of our outfits could be stacked
and shuffled like a deck
of cards. Keep the bottle cap
opener hanging by a string.
Wear it like a locket
and stay collared to our after-school
bliss when we found you
underneath a tree that scattered
glass fruit around your feet.
The boys lined them up
for death by slingshot
and the girls giggled
when the bodies shattered.
Take good care of our drawings,
our crooked handwriting
exercises, the scribbles of our names,
and sew a suit with sailboats
on the sleeves, a coat with Qs
sliding down a wire, and pants
that celebrate our pre-pubescent
autographs. And in your shoe--
don’t tell us which! let us guess!--
save the coin you told us
came from China. It had a hole
in the middle because the merchants
slid their change on chopsticks.
We pictured them on market
Sundays holding up their earnings
like a shish kabob. We know
you hid the coin because all seven
of us wanted it and so you
took it with you. Or so I claimed.
Can I be blamed, oh father, oh story
man, for wanting to possess
the single thing that couldn’t be shared?
You saw me slide it out
the window of your wallet
while you napped and didn’t
snap into attention to complain.
Of all your sons and daughters
it is I who wanted to escape the most
to anywhere. I learned the desperate
alchemy of flowering a barren day
with song from you, oh master.
A minstrel needs his freedom.
And so you let me take it.
Excerpted from Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto González with permission from the author. Copyright 2013. Published by Four Way Books.
Rigoberto González is the author of fifteen books of poetry and prose, and the editor of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, winner of the American Book Award, The Poetry Center Book Award, The Shelley Memorial Award of The Poetry Society of America, and a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine, 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.