For the Other World

By Ray Gonzalez b. 1952 Ray Gonzalez
For those who ran in the streets,
there were no faces to welcome them back.
José escaped and loved the war.
For those who swam with bitterness
of a scorched love,
there was a rusted car to work on.
For those who merely passed
and reclined in prayer,
there was the tower and the cross.
For those who dedicated tongues
to the living and dying,
there were turquoise painted doorways.
For those who left their children
tied to the water heater,
there was a shout and a name.
For those whose world
was real and beautiful,
there was a cigarette and a saint.
For those who asked José
to stay and feed his children,
there were flowers at their funerals.
For those who carried a shovel
tattooed on their backs,
there was a wet towel and a bottle.
For those who swept the street
of superstition and lie,
there was the house to come home to.
For those who came home late
and put their swollen feet up,
there was love and the smell of dirty socks.
For those who feared the devil
and spit on his painted arms,
there was a lesson in rosaries.
For those who had to leave
before the sun went down,
there was asphalt and a bus.
For those who stared at wet plaster
and claimed the face of Christ appeared,
there was confinement and stale bread.
For those who talked with each other
and said it was time to go,
there was lead in the paint and on the tongue.
For those who left children behind,
there was a strange world
of sulphur and sparrow nests.
For those who accused their ancestors
of eating salt, there were these hands
tracing what was left after the sweat.

Ray Gonzalez, “For the Other World” 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, Death, Life Choices, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Tercet

 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, Death, Life Choices, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Tercet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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