The Magnets

By Ray Gonzalez b. 1952 Ray Gonzalez

                           on turning forty

They draw me closer like the hands
of one grandmother I kissed upon
visiting her in the barrio.
The magnets make me look at my waist,
wondering why the ache is in the street,
houses giving off stinking air,
a magnetic field collecting old newspapers,
broken-down cars, alleys where
the drummer cowers before he beats
on his bag of beer cans.

I visit the irrigation canal that
churns green and flows beyond the streets,
wait for the alligator to swim by,
the one released from the plaza long ago.
I feel the pull toward the mongrel dog,
the clicking of the magnets in the church,
an attraction for open doorways.


I remove the magnet from my neck,
a medal of a denied saint.
I will never witness the migration of bats again,
stand at the entrance of the caverns
as bats shoot out of the opening,
the evening bristling with their intelligence.

The sky bruises against the horizon
of yucca plants erect as magnets
surrrounding the cavern,
miles of yucca encircling the poles
to protect them from the wind
that pulls me into the hole.


He tells me to believe what I have seen,
insists magnetic force comes from the blade,
the woman wanting us to keep something for her.
He says magnets are missing metals
from an underground wound,
a husband’s wrist broken by a slammed car hood,
loyal dance of an old couple watching the street.

He says tortillas and menudo attract flies.
He learned red chili kills all life,
insists magnets let him sleep fulfilled,
delicious food he fixes
long after his wife has died.

He cries that the magnets get stronger
when he peels the pods to find no difference
in the seeds of hunger and the seeds of love.


I climb the rocks because the minerals are there,
ascend to where I buried the seashell,
rusted can, and pencil twenty-eight years ago.
I reach the rocks because I am allowed one mountain,
climbing to readjust the magnets.
Then, I stand and look down.

I clear my chest of a fist encountered up here,
set my foot on the humming slab.
I move to survive when I touch my heart.
I climb higher before deciding to bend and dig.

Ray Gonzalez, “The Magnets” from Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by Ray Gonzalez.  Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. .

Source: Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 2005)

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Poet Ray Gonzalez b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Living, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Time & Brevity

 Ray  Gonzalez


Poet, essayist, and editor Ray Gonzalez was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Gonzalez’s work is inextricably linked to his Mexican ancestry and American upbringing in the deserts of the Southwest, as well as to rock n’ roll music and mid-century American poets such as Robert Bly and James Wright. A long-time professor at the University of Minnesota, Gonzalez has spoken to the importance of place in his work: “I do not have to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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