The Strangers Who Find Me in the Woods

By Rigoberto González b. 1970 Rigoberto Gonzalez

after Thomas James

The strangers in the woods must mimic squirrels and crackle
with the undergrowth. They must not flinch at the cruelty
of breaking golden leaves with their feet, or of interring stones.
And like any of these deciduous trees in autumn they must be

stingy with shadow and move deceptively across the sludge.
I listen to these strangers stirring with the evenings. I invent paths
for them to the soft edge of the lake. Each descent is as graceful
as a sinking ship, but less tragic somehow because these strangers

don’t possess a lung. I cannot hear them breathe, yet the air
is all whispers, all sighs—the same ethereal muscle that rubs
the color off the foliage. I lost my way out of the woods on the night
every bird went south or numb. A plump rat snatched the moon

and dragged it by the white rope of its tail. The strangers were
a cloak of silhouettes flattening against a trunk like bark.
I must have disappeared among them because the mouth I touched
was not my own and was cruelly closing in on someone’s rib. I carried

such a bite on me, an arc of green and yellow on my side from the man
who said he loved me. In that darkness I knew as much about him
as I did of the amputee swimming his way up the hill with his
only arm. So this is the home of the unturned stone where

the fugitive keeps his kiss! Archeologists will discover a paradise
in the place no touch died of neglect. Is it any wonder all things
forgotten or abandoned find their way here? The winter is back, so too
the bloated body of a book I tossed over the bridge last week.

And there on the bench, is my old smoking habit, a cigarette
glowing on my mouth like a beacon. I’m patient, waiting for the fugitive
to claim me as his own. I’m as wise as any stranger here, alone but with
the knowledge that the grief of separation is always brief.

Rigoberto Gonzalez, “The Strangers Who Find Me in the Woods” from Other Fugitives and Other Strangers. Copyright © 2006 by Rigoberto Gonzalez. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.

Source: Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (Tupelo Press, 2006)

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Poet Rigoberto González b. 1970

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Relationships, Love, Nature, Trees & Flowers, The Body, Social Commentaries, Desire

Biography

Rigoberto González was born in Bakersfield, California and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. He is the author of two poetry books, So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks (1999), a National Poetry Series selection, and Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (2006). He has also written two bilingual children’s books, Soledad Sigh-Sighs (2003) and Antonio’s Card (2005); the novel Crossing Vines (2003), winner of ForeWord . . .

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Poems by Rigoberto González

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Nature, Trees & Flowers, The Body, Social Commentaries, Desire

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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