Rigoberto González

Danza Macabre

Your wreath declares: I celebrate my coffin because it keeps me
longer than my mother.
Wood polished to patience as the tantrum
of your body wastes no time to soften. As your grudges forgive
themselves, as your indiscretions uproot from their hiding places
to crawl away like larvae, as the stones of your gossip tumble off
your tongue, you’re gratified somehow that all your flaws
and all your crimes will be absolved. That’s what you believed
into the final hour, and found comfort in this fantasy while I
nailed my doubts to my skull and said nothing. Now the soil tightens
its grip on your coffin and my thoughts take wing: if what you said
were true, lover, cemeteries would be the cheeriest homes
with its laughter six feet deep and a nursery of cherubs
blowing at the pinwheels on the Catholic stones. And somewhere
behind the water tank would wait the caretaker in his cardinal
frock ready to pounce with confetti. What a treat to frolic
with the dead as their souls climb like carnival balloons,
music from the organ grinder driving the monkey to madness.
How fortunate the deceased like you, stiff-fingered, lock-jawed,
unburdening your bodies without effort, the seven sinful sisters
settling to clear the murky water of your blood. Even the fiery
mood of your eyes cools off like lava, and you appear human
again. Perhaps even humane. Death is so tolerant and forgiving
even with those who were not. You can take your make-believe
afterlife with you. I am alive, and the breathing can allow for other
theories. In my cosmos of karma, the dead swim like fetuses
in their personal purgatories and must drown their way out
of their earthly deeds. The scratch and bruise come back
to roost in the hand that fathered them. The bark and scream return,
clotting the throat until it implodes. Even the prodigal kick leaps
up to the bone, demanding to be sheltered again in the quick-tempered
spring of the knee. Past offenses multiply the memory cells of the flesh,
bubbling the brain into oblivion. That is how I see you now: fury coma
self-consumed into spasms. Wouldn’t it be nice for the victimized?
I suppose however that neither you nor I will be humored, that the end
has surprised you as much as it will me when the sky closes up
like the fist we’ve both seen as often as night. At long last, when my body
also dims to gray, we’ll be equals, companion corpses, gracefully
retired like a pair of ballet slippers, predator indistinguishable from
prey. Let the rosaries murmur that lovers make peace in their graves.
Let the sun search for spectral kisses. Let the moon bless the padlock
as the living leave and shut the gate. No fugitives permitted here—only
debts and those who resolve them. Goodbye, my former love, be
patient as my body marvels at the world without you. In a year or decade
I’ll be dead and we’ll converse again through all eternity. Partnered in
our favorite dance, your phantom holler with my ghostly screech.

Rigoberto González
Poem, copyright © 2004 by Rigoberto González
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2004, From the Fishouse