Rigoberto Gonzalez

Winner of the 2011 Shelley Memorial Award



By the road in Guerrero
a cattle cargo truck stops
at an incline with a flat.

Two brown bulls stand on the bed
bound by the horns to a yoke—
each captive, hoof-bruised and skinned

at the talus, depending
on his partner for balance.
At the feet, a splash of blood

fiery as a spill of satin,
bubbling down like lava.
A wound burning through the wood?

Not so. The left bull's left horn
broke and flew off the head like
a bottle-cap. Defected,

the horn dropped into the brush,
biting through, tip down, making
its first indentation on

its own. Now the bull's skull's left
unplugged like the puckered lip
on a plastic baby made

hollow by an absent thumb.
Stone Anahuac gods have mouths
that empty, that round. This hole's

center is sticky as if
the bull had stuck its black tongue
inside for comfort, the way

we tickle the missing tooth's
gum. Will it grow another?
The bull's left eye, panic-struck,

doubts it, set ablaze with pain.
The head's third socket shocks him
into thick paralysis.

The second bull doesn't move
contemplating a collapse.
He gazes at his partner—

eye reflecting throbbing eye.
There is no seeking pity,
no screwing the horn back on.


"Horn" originally appeared in So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until it Breaks ( U. of Illinois Press, 1999).

Juan Felipe Herrera on Rigoberto Gonzalez

Let us admire Rigoberto for his poetics of intimacy, blood margin and an impossible love-body; how he finds joy, as Lu Chi, the Taoist writer, would have said, in "tasking the void," that is, how he dares to enter into the all-encompassing darkness and the unknown stranger-place and attempts to grasp the magnificent light unfolding in a new form. Few poets can speak of slaughterhouses, mummified mistresses, bulls hauled in trucks with fresh busted horns yet in existence, burnt sienna stained nights of cemeteries where boys play and the woods where blurred men-lovers stumble into brief love or escort us to a child witnessing dead pig headless stacks. Here in this ravenous decay, compressed heat and numb realm, for Rigoberto Gonzalez, there are blossoms fanning out and "proteins" still thrashing in motion; there is explosive life-force blazing toward the boundless. We feel Lorca's hands too, in these medium-line texts, moving piano-like, upholding a new rising life, even when the time-keeping units we know of have ceased:

 "My lung at sub-zero, my empty heart, those pieces of the body
that cannot thaw shatter at the mouth of heat."
                 From, "Blizzard," Black Blossoms (Four Way Books, 2011)

Rigoberto Gonzalez is a poet of our time and perhaps, of our time to be.

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