Ray Gonzalez Poems




Ears Full of Thorns



My father had a blue panther

tattooed on his shoulder.

The music of power and silence

was composed when Santa Fe

fell in 1619, rebellious Pueblo

people cutting off the heads

of the Spaniards.

My mother denied a slap

on her face, turned the other

cheek like Christ,

and asked for it again.


The breast of the owl in the attic

is the cauliflower of wisdom.

The angels who guided

the conquistador betrayed him

and left him to die in the canyon.

The crying wolf believed in rosaries

and chewed a bundle of them

before he was shot

in the season of faults.


My brother never woke from

the umbilical cord around his neck.

The music of loss and defeat

is the beauty composed during

the shattering of the clay ovens,

the emergence of the flat bread

that feeds the passing journeys.


Sound is like a human breast

with its taste of air unknown.

My streets were lined with adobe

when mud was legal and no one

felt they had to put iron bars

in every window.

Waiting for the signal to attack,

Juan Carlos Arrete entered heaven

by welcoming the spear that

inflated his memory and set him

gently down on the black horse

he rode as a boy.



There is no mercy when

the rat leaves the hole and

the Gila Monster emerges,

its black body dotted in pink,

its ugly head flashing its tongue

to see if the blood of

our waiting has dried.

My cousin pulled me under

the water and I almost drowned

in the public swimming pool,

those years of stupidity reminding me

what binds me is a passageway

to the jars of salt where

my grandmother diminishes

our history by chanting to

the badger and the coyote

mounted on the wall.


My father had a blue panther

burned on his body when

he was in the Navy.

The notes of darkness and

headaches is the song commissioned

by a passing truck full of

migrant workers on the way

to their slow death, the fields

of cotton and chile destroyed

by the black clouds that

took over the valley.

The mouth of judgment

is a shoeless foot.


When Cochise erased

the markings on the walls,

twenty eight of his warriors

were killed by the Mexicans.

When Emilio Zapata was gunned

down in conspiracy, three white

stallions were released in the town

square by his enemies.

When I found a tougher guy

to beat up my neighbor

who always harassed me,

my neighbor was beaten

to a pulp and I secretly

rejoiced for years.

When Andre Breton found

a plate of blue feathers

by his cot in the Zuni Pueblo,

he wrote seven poems and

crossed the desert on foot.

When the lizard was eaten

by the little boy on a dare,

his friends stared at him,

then walked away forever.


The ear bristles with love

and the entrance of an idea

that begins the tournament,

but no one listens to the choir

because the moment of bowing

down is covered by purple,

black and white curtains thrown

over the worshipping bodies.

My turn consists of taking a twig,

tying a blade of grass around it,

holding the twig to the air,

then letting go as the falcon takes it.


My father wanted to cut

the blue panther off his shoulder,

scraping the skin raw until his past

was gone and he did not have

to share it with me.

My burning waters are tears

falling past my right eye,

satisfying the host who sits

atop a broken kitchen table

and shows me empty bowls,

empty glasses, and the stove

covered in webs.


When smoke was still

interpreted as a signal,

the dancers came.

When smoke was slashing

the eyes red, the chosen danced.

When smoke was an alphabet

that crossed the desert,

the town was born.

When smoke took away

the panther from my fatherís body,

I began to speak and no longer

listened to anything.





Ray Gonzalez is the author of nine books of poetry, including The Heat of Arrivals, Cabato Sentora, The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande, Turtle Pictures and, his latest, Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems.His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of The Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses 2000. He has served as Poetry Editor of The Bloomsbury Review for twenty-two years and founded LUNA, a poetry journal, in 1998.He is Full Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.





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