Read This Year's Best Gay Poetry

According to Lambda Literary, Rigoberto González's book Unpeopled Eden is the best collection of gay poetry produced this year. Read an exclusive excerpt from the book below.

BY Rigoberto González

June 12 2014 7:00 AM ET

Rigoberto González is the author of 15 books of poetry and prose, and the editor of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing. Last month his latest collection of poetry, Unpeopled Eden, won the Lambda Literary Award for  Best Gay Poetry, adding to his already long list of accolades, including 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. Gonzáles is the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, a contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine, a member of the executive board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, and professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey.

After winning this latest honor bestowed by the authors and editors who make up Lambda Literary's voting members, González agreed to provide The Advocate with an exclusive excerpt from Unpeopled Eden. Read it below. 

 

 

Mortui Vivos Docent

I

In the trunk, a blouse with breasts, a skirt

stretched open by hips that have shaken off 

the last whiff of talcum powder at the pothole. 

Clumsy dancer, dropping her shoe somewhere between

Mexicali and Calexico. If she were breathing

she’d let the whiskey tell the tale,

sultry syllable after sultry syllablesí, mi amor.

Mummies are this century’s mermaids,

rattling songs that will stop a heart. If we let them,

says the whale-eyed sailor, hands cuffed 

to the steering wheel, mumbling the madness

of a man who found a woman whistling

beneath a Mexican moon—music so pretty

he just had to keep it from ruining the terrorist world.

 

II

This is how you ruin the terrorist world:

cut out the yellow heart of heaven,

drop the bloodless stars into the sea,

blind the women who sit to wonder on the shore.

I knew such a woman. I’ve kept her comb in my purse

after all these years, since the night my father found her

walking home from the Cachanilla hills.

You know the names, El Abanico, El Dollar, La Puta Eva

y El Pinche Adán, places so plump with pleasure

even the air turns to stupor, drunk with a sensory coma.

Clarification: she was not the body in the ruby corset,

not behind the pair of tassels, not inside the scent

of tangerines. My mother was the mop and the bucket

wiping off the fingerprints on the promiscuous wall.

 

III

This is how you press against the promiscuous wall:

drill the pair of diamonds on your back and moan;

hold your breath, float face-down on the vertical pool;

sway with the shadows set in motion by a swinging 

chandelier—an angry father come to claim his child.

He did not catch me then, but he caught me

walking home, my knees still numb from dancing

with the men who love their mamacitas pink

and puckered as if they’re sipping wine transparent

as the cloth across their thighs. What could I do

with lips like mine but kiss or whistle loud enough

to be the visible woman my overworked mother 

never was? So, papi, keep your only son holy as you stuff 

me in the trunk: I’m wearing mother’s blouse, my mother’s skirt. 

 

--

Excerpted from Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto González with permission of the author and publisher. Copyright 2013. Published by Four Way Books

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