POETRY – 4 Poems by Rodney Gomez


And would it surprise you to find
that Sisyphus pushed a cart

instead of a boulder, and the cart
was filled with crepe myrtle,

metalmarks, and some ragtag
bodies he found near the river’s

insolent sashay, and that he wore
a green uniform, patched

with some bottle caps he filched
from limbs too black

to be capable of protestation
and pleading a series of telegraph

bleeps, as if Spanish could turn
into English through the alchemy

of suffering, this Sisyphus
built the border wall, would it

surprise you to know that he
delicately placed rail after rail,

even when the fence
had already been fashioned

into a gleaming bear trap,
he went blind looking

through the slats and finding
no one barging through but wind,

and hungry for someone to take over
the pushing, that when the wave came

to defend the wall, the wall
and its resistance

to love, he gave over the cart
and everything inside, pretended

he couldn’t distinguish the lullof leaves
plunging nearby from the roar

of the gushing river below,
and swallowing their muzzles,

their bloated bullhorns,
he pointed to a gap, and watching

the wave pour through, built
an identical cart to the one

he’d lost, but this one out of femurs,
moss-covered skulls, ribs frail as harps,

and would it surprise you to know
that it was never empty?






Our Lady of San Juan

cupped hands : a sun dial
cesta of moon : votary
when she says I love you : glacier
hallelujah : flaccid wrist
walking on knees : acceptance of death
broken promise : burnt mesquite
promises kept : a flame
indifference of cicadas : Gethsemane
confessional : ornate rhythm of water
heavy element : the wages of sin
hidden prayer : lock for the mouth
rosary : a fastening, a clasp
an open mouth : cantankerous censer
frayed habit : lost key
burning cottonwoods : baptism
inevitable loss : confirming the time
when she re-appears : flicking a lighter
las desaparecidas : oversight of the body
rain on feather: balm
other: where the god resides
other: when the wound heals






Crossing is a Fragile Wedding

Boneset makes an elegant bride.

A river lies stiff for plucking:

when it speaks, even gently,
grackles dagger out of the fog.

When I arrived in staggers
the wall was bruised: flakes

of bondo littered the body loose.

The only friendly things
were strays: sorghum fields

sagged with the infants
of a starving anthem.

I hung my wet shirt to dry
on a nearby saw.

In the sun I was another
machine stripping the bride

down to her slippers.

In the sun my hands
pretended to be wed.

They crawled into cool mud
to escape the kites.

Kites & their oil rig heads.

They pulled up pesetas
& spouses. They pulled up

enough love letters
to make the banks bloom again

with solitude.






It hung in the nave
& refused to pray.

The parishioners thought
it was a hand
of plantains,

the vicar a sign
from God to let
good things in.

He refused to spring
for an exterminator.

It sailed down one day
during the Parable
of the Weeds

to attack a black mantilla
more bat than silk.

As it flapped
& clawed its way
to climax,

the woman beneath
cried out for a beating.

The vicar complied,
using the monstrance
to quiet her down
while the bat remained.

Heaven is only
for the innocent.




Rodney Gomez is the author of Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014), winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize, and Spine, winner of the Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize (Newfound, 2015). His poetry has appeared in various journals, including Denver Quarterly, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Salt Hill, Drunken Boat, and RHINO, where it won the Editors’ Prize. Born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, he earned a BA from Yale and an MFA from the University of Texas – Pan American. He has been awarded residencies to the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Santa Fe Art Institute. He has also served on the board of Migrant Health Promotion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of migrants, immigrants, and related populations. He works as the transportation director at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley.

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