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White Tiger

Not the white tiger,
but the stable heart flying
over the cities of yesterday.

Not the white butterfly,
but the luminous rock
decorating the path.

Not the white flag,
but the dead Army youth
lying down for his country.

Not the white marbles
of childhood, but bones
lined up to win the game.

Not the white tiger,
but the heart escaping through
the hidden valleys of the great city.


The Wolf Table

The garden of shame grows two trees—
one a yellow thing that bristles with tears,

the second a willow from the river.
When the man falls in love,

the black Madonna enters the country
to give him a child who never plants

gardens, but lives under the trees, ignoring
the willow until its branches grow higher.

This proves the eagle on the forehead
is stronger than the wolf under the table

because the child will grow into a man
holding an unshaved flower to present

to his mother on her beautifully
scented deathbed.


Nomadic Drifts through Zones of Page

The operative semantics are copulating because it is a study of organic and synthetic variation and a linking of isolated units preserving their molecular independency to reveal how this plays out between the social and lingual in terms of a double assault: on page per se and on the vector of reference in terms of meaning making and purchasing a new pair of shoes.  There is no place in the work because there is no incantation, only energy exchange that reaches the conclusion that there is no purpose to that work because the attributes of the project deal with syntactical textures, ear wax,  Max Jacob’s beret, anesthesia, and kinesics—gestures of being that lead to local composition, an investigation of grammatical space with concerns that have to do with transcribing the myriad registers of an ecosystem body/mind/toe/eyelash and the consecutive invention on the plane of the signifier that wants to get away without revealing a geometrical space for ego and room for dirty socks worn to the trial.

History/gender/notebooks/Grateful Dead outtakes/sexuality/race/Kleenex/
class/empire/politic.  This process of reading becomes a muscular activity toward orgasm, though the mind is operating in tension through disjunction and an attempt to make connections between compartmentalized subjects and spaces that open as aborted vectors or women taking violin lessons, non-purposive contexts that lead to the topography of the disjunctive, supporting the integral violence of transformation that leaves a crushed flower behind, though the open process is participatory, inter-relational and porous as it fills the glass jar with a purple fluid.  Such a paradox describes the horizontal identity of the signifier whose dissonance is a chain of query worn around the starving stomach whose violent instability can be located in any molecular aggregate of thought and, sometimes, extracted from the idea of “word.” 

This allows the line to identify the syntax as a horizontal honeycomb which is joined to the theory of  poetic drift mistaken for the infinite capacity to absorb all breaks in casualty and still have the ability to sweep the trimmed toenails off the floor while stealing this text.  The whirling fragment of cultural detritus is lodged on one single page where the zone of attention is the mark of a fiction intended to function as a historic sub-function that is listed in the grammatical history that creates guilt in witnessing a graphed pattern of place supported in the huge and triumphant zone of the human head.


Renew It

When a flea jumps, the rate of acceleration is 20 times that of the space shuttle during launch, but I can’t renew this fact because frogs dropped out of the sky in several cities during the last century and I can’t renew my love for crickets dipped in peanut butter, this delicacy revealed here because the last one I swallowed beats inside my heart.

Row upon row of stacked saxophones can be found in the closet of the dressing room in the abandoned night club.  The instruments belong to jazzmen that played the club over the generations, the shiny line of horns a renewable myth that will be proven in two years when the building is razed and the ghost sax player is heard in the produce aisle of the new supermarket.

I can’t renew the fact my twin brother had six toes on one foot, his disappearance at age 28 an unsolved mystery that haunts me each time I pause to give thanks for having four toes on each foot. When the naked woman appeared in the trees, the two boys playing in the forest thought it was a miracle and they dropped the bat and ball to stare, the beauty of nature renewable until the boys grow older and visit the local brothel.

When the one-armed man rode the tricycle he stole from a playground and tried to cross the street, he was smashed by a pick-up truck, the grinding of metal searing the asphalt with a renewable spirit that will haunt the driver forever.

While mowing the lawn, I felt something buzz my face.  In the motion of shooing it away, I opened my mouth and swallowed it.  I spit in the grass, but it was too late.  Whatever flew down my throat renewed the cricket in my heart and it became a tiny, white spider crawling across my office floor.


Six Faces of Admittance

The first face is inside the window of your head, guiding you toward confession and taking your last walking cane.  The second face hangs outside your nose, weeps water that spins your head and lets you feel the wrinkled skin of loss.  The third face reflects off the glass with unknown words you need to repeat, their meaning hidden in the age of composition.   The fourth face belongs to a god who says you cannot be born again without multiple faces, so he sends you to the fifth one that is the stranger who removed your baby face by giving you a chance to be included in the family picture frame. 

Waiting for the sixth face allows the first face to return by slapping you once.  As you stagger in surprise, the second face comforts you by growing a beard as you are now someone else’s hairy face.  This signals the third face to come back, but it is overlooked when the fourth face lies about what everyone sees, the godly look kept hidden from you when the fifth face is the profile of a dying, old man you have never seen before.  This face doesn’t fit your skull that has tried to resemble everyone involved.  You pause to catch your breath and this makes room for the missing person, the sixth face that is out there somewhere.  You wait and the silence calms your cheekbones and dims the light.  You sit back in your favorite chair, your face falling asleep as you doze off, wondering when the sixth face will arrive and who it will look like.  


Ray Gonzalez is the author of numerous books of poetry, including five from BOA Editions—The Heat of Arrivals (1997 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award), Cabato Sentora (2000 Minnesota Book Award Finalist), The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande (winner of a 2003 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry) and Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems (2005) and Cool Auditor: Prose Poems (2009).   Turtle Pictures (University of Arizona Press, 2000), a mixed-genre text, received the 2001 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry.  His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of The Best American Poetry (Scribners) and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses 2000 (Pushcart Press). He is also the author of three collections of essays, The Underground Heart:  A Return to a Hidden Landscape (Arizona, 2002), which received the 2003 Carr P. Collins/ Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Book of Non-fiction, was named one of ten Best Southwest Books of the Year by the Arizona Humanities Commission, named one of the Best Non-fiction Books of the Year by the Rocky Mountain News, named a Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Memoir, and selected as a Book of the Month by the El Paso Public Library,  Memory Fever (University of Arizona Press, 1999), a memoir about growing up in the Southwest, and Renaming the Earth: Personal Essays (Arizona, 2008).  He has written two collections of short stories, The Ghost of John Wayne (Arizona, 2001, winner of a 2002 Western Heritage Award for Best Short Story and a 2002 Latino Heritage Award in Literature) and Circling the Tortilla Dragon (Creative Arts, 2002).  His second mixed-genre text, The Religion of Hands (volume two of the Turtle Pictures trilogy) was published by Arizona in 2005.  He is the editor of twelve anthologies, most recently Sudden Fiction Latino:  Short Short Stories from the U.S. and Latin America (W. W. Norton).  He has served as Poetry Editor of The Bloomsbury Review for thirty years and founded LUNA, a poetry journal, in 1998.  He is Full Professor and the Director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.