[Elegy for Grandpére, on the day of his death].
By Lucas Gonzalez
Cats were mewling at the door,
and hummingbirds grew dizzy
around the lemon bushes.
Grandpére was lying in his bed and crying,
and on my living room speakers,
there was blues music.
For long periods of thought,
I was lost in warmth and translucence
I had batch of papers to scratch through,
knowing he had been given only a few hours
to interpret the final earthly shapes
of knowing aloneness.
There was something dreadful, unfamiliar
about the thick occlusions of fog over Oakland,
and that day, just by the way strange thoughts
found themselves stuck inside my poems,
uncertain where they’d taken the wrong turn,
I did not feed them, showed them no kindness,
deducing some relationship
between his place and my own.
I had been feeling something
like he had in past months,
taking a look at where I am
and knowing it’s not where I was,
knowing only the strange feelings
and un-conclusions that come with it
and whatever lay beyond.
Here I was, a naked pilgrim who discovers
for the first time the sunlit pools of California,
where the crimson roses fade to dust,
where I have seen them bowing, lost,
sallow with forgotten hues
by the tousled highway brushes
and tangled in the train tracks
by the hot Mexican food trucks
whose owners wield shotguns by the BART.
Just think of the anger that poor Grandpére
must have been writhing his way through
as night came down in wary coolness
before the un-arriving afternoon.
It must have been like the rage of bubbles,
and I mean the pain that burned right through him
as his being dropped into the depths and cooled,
like the same kettle that I meet scalding,
boiling over, that loves its place
in the sink as soon.
I think of the empty bottles, old dishes,
stray bits of food and photo clippings,
ragged newspapers that littered his apartment
in a squalor that can only be understood here
as our own—that of the living.
I can’t bear to learn some lessons,
just as some small-minded students won’t,
so I put on my smile, feign high spirits,
and teach my lessons
about do’s and don’t’s in writing,
arguments rising up from within myself.
I light up some grass when I get home,
and the feeling of creation and the elation
of mourning drains from me
the way thoughts do
when I lost this:
as when I lose some key moments
in this heavy gloom presiding,
guiding me along minor conclusions,
although it’s not all things
that come together—
although it’s not all things
that come unglued.
At night, there is the sounds of raccoons,
the smell and whir of laundry —
the broken lightbulbs create
their usual shadows sighing.
There is the buzzing
and then the shallowness
of the poor guitar un-tuned,
a voice that cannot recapture
the few lost moments
that held much dearer words for you.
What Books Do To Me
For Mark Mathabane
By Lucas Gonzalez
Take caution: A strong vocabulary will eviscerate its reader.
Chapter One: A Son reduced to judgment by the Voodoo Generation.
A gambling, defeated, deadbeat Father
calls him False Prophet on a floor of ashes,
pernicious in tone for having discovered
his boy speaking in tongues,
or, rather, something other
than the language native to ignorance.
Two universes existing in either parallel or series—but connected:
Beautiful people parading nonexistent wealth
in the valley of shallowness
on the other side of the same planet
Telling stories from café tables of being hounded at the hands of certain death
by an imaginary, dark and vicious native people—all while on vacation.
By the time the pages have done their turning towards the book’s conclusion,
I’ve conjured every woe about my wages and the noise and the lack of tables,
and in spite of our worst kinds of failures,
the reader senses that overwhelming pain is mended.
To come of age is to realize, in retrospect, that it has happened.
Once, adults oppressed me.
Now, it is the children who enrage me.
For hours now, at the concrete fountain, where the sun’s cold ripples
sear a froth that churns like a run-on sentence or a tangential thought,
I’ve been trying to get through some reading.
Tears overwhelm me,
hand-to-mouth like devastation.
Somewhere in the voices of my own teachers,
in my poems like echo chambers,
in my own stubborn nature wandering towards destiny,
my spirit has been liberated
by reading and by knowledge.
Sitting at the fountain,
the children gather their hands
in the shimmering reflections.
Lucas Gonzalez was born in New York City. His first novel, Maple Machine (2006), was published by 826 National (McSweeney’s Press). A 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee and a winner of the Robert Haiduke Poetry Award at the Bread Loaf School of English, Lucas holds an MA from Middlebury College and is currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at Columbia University. His poems are forthcoming in such print and web publications as Stone Canoe, Forage Poetry, Ink Node and Noise Medium.