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Category archive for: Ray Gonzalez

Max Jacob’s Leather Coat and the Possibility of Grief

On the day the Gestapo came and took him away, the last three prose poems he was writing were left at the kitchen table along with his old leather coat that hung on the chair, until Jacob’s landlord entered the room and grabbed it. One can retrace the history of the coat and notice the silhouette of a man sitting at the kitchen table without the coat that accompanied him all over Paris. The last three poems he wrote in freedom were about the leather coat because the sheets were found two weeks later by the young woman who rented Jacob’s apartment. When she entered the kitchen for the first time, she picked up the pieces of paper, but did not know how to read, so she set the poems on the dirty table and went to inspect the other room. Max Jacob’s last three poems before he was taken away by the Nazis were finally read by the figure sitting at the table, alone and bent over, squinting at the tiny handwriting, his leather coat worn tightly on his shoulders.

from Beautiful WallFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Axis

The volcano in my grandmother’s Mexican village

smothered the town, though the girl escaped because

the axis of revolution sent her family into exile,

black clouds covering their journey to the north.

The axis of the earth is a skeletal bone extending

from pole to pole, the arm of someone holding on.

The Japanese earthquake shifted the axis of the earth,

moving Japan twelve feet closer to North America,

each day shortened by one second.

When a poet said the past never happens because

it is always present, the other one proclaimed the past

is in the future, the axis bending to allow these words

to skip the water like stones thrown by a boy in

search of his father, the axis of yesterday sinking

the stones the boy hurled across the pond.

from Beautiful WallFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

The Lynching Postcard. Duluth, Minnesota

There is a postcard in an antique shop in Duluth

with a photograph of the infamous lynching of

a black man carried out in the town in the 1930s.

The owner was turned down by eBay when

he wanted to sell it there. Tourists walk into

his shop and stare at the lone card in the glass case.

The owner says it is better to sell it

than donate it to a museum where

it would be locked away in a drawer.

Some people want it removed.

Others snicker and stare, shake their heads

and accept the fact this is “only Minnesota.”

Each morning, the shop owner glances

at the case to make sure the postcard is there.

Thousands have bowed over the glass.

At night, when the shop is closed,

the postcard lies in the case, the body hanging

in the cold moonlight from Lake Superior,

the shadow from the swinging body

forming a shape that rises through

the glass to darken the shop.

Over a dozen people have come across it.

They don’t know the act of bending over the glass

to study the dead body on the pole is forming

an invisible arc of light over time,

a shadow where those who bow to look

imitate the shape of a hanging tree.

from Beautiful WallFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.