For the Other World Poem

For the Other World Poem

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 the 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 smooth length of the tower.
For those who dedicated tongues
to the living and the dying,
there were doorways painted in bright colors.
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 the funeral.
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 lies,

there was a turquoise house to come home to.
For those who came home late
and put up their swollen feet,

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 faded,

there was asphalt and a bus and José.
For those who stared at the 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 another world made
of sulphur and sparrow nests.
For those who accused their ancestors
of eating salt, there were these hands,
folded fingers tracing what was left after the
sweat.

Ray González
first published in Crab Orchard Review, vol. 4, no. 1,
Fall/Winter 1998