Kevin A. González


Lake Mendota, Wisconsin
Have you said everything
you were going to say
about skin, Kevin? How about
everything you were going to say
about obscurity & loss?
These are the things you know—
There has been a key
for every lock you’ve picked
& when you picked the locks
the keys lost all their weight.
You know your name
is tattooed in black letters
on the asphalt of I-90
somewhere between Madison
& Pittsburgh. You know
wherever it is you are today
is not where you were born
& the girls to whom you give
your number have no idea
not a single ending in your life
has been beautiful. When you see
your father’s name on the Caller ID,
a shot of whiskey spills suddenly
inside you. For a time
you were younger
than your older brother,
& the only reason
you are older than him now
is because you kept on living.
You don’t know who the rowboat
that is moored in the middle of the bay
belongs to, but you know at night
it dreams about the oars
it lost to the mud
at the bottom of the lake. You know
there are things which are genetic
& things which are learned
& then, there are the things
from which you will never be detached.
This is what I’m trying to say:
I miss my brother. I’ve missed him
ever since that train wreck
inside the tunnel of his vein,
a tunnel which instead of openings
had thick walls paved with light
on either end. Once,
he shoved me off a dinghy
& when the propeller bloomed
a wake over my head
he called it my baptism.
This is why my father
concieved an imaginary son
who writes better poems than I do.
This is why I am so far
from the place where I was born
& why every morning when I shave
I want to crawl
into the angle of the mirror
that most resembles childhood.
I take it back: I have no idea
what that rowboat dreams of.
I don’t know the last wishes
of those oars that sunk
to the bottom of the lake,
or even if there were any oars
in the rowboat to begin with.
I don’t know the size
of the scar inside my father
or how a chain link fence
must have begun to rust
around his heart. I don’t know
what made my brother do it.
But back to what I know:
tonight there is a star in the sky
for every period that has been
forgotten by a suicide note.
Because the phone would not stop
ringing, I have locked myself
out of my apartment
& come to this pier
to see how the waves
cradle a dinghy to sleep.
I don’t return my calls
because I have learned
the brief spittle of last kisses
is always a kind of bleeding.
I have grown
into my brother’s Timberlands
& when I walk on gravel
I know he’s in the gaps
between the pebbles. To die
is to leave the keys inside the skin
& lock yourself forever
outside the body. Tonight
this is what remains:
a stationary keel,
the unstirred petals
of the propeller.
I don’t care if this is earned:
I have just caught myself
rehearsing your eulogy.

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