Ray Gonzalez


When the old women approached the church,
they knelt on the concrete, penance to their Lord
about to be paid as they slowly moved toward
the doors on their knees, one woman in tears,
the other muttering in silence, each one granted
something from the one they believed, paying
back on their burning knees, their heads draped
in scarves, summer dripping on the hot concrete
as they awkwardly moved toward the doors,
church goers stepping out of their way
as they approached the arch, standing back
because they did not have the same need,
did not ask for what could never be granted
as they stared at the two women approaching
the entrance this way, each one pausing
down there to make the sign of the cross,
stopping as people around them dipped fingers
in the dirty cups mounted on the wall, blessing
themselves before getting out of the way,
the silent women unable to reach the holder
of holy water, refusing to stand up and insert
their fingers as others did, their scorched knees
keeping them in the entry way, people going
around them as the two women let out moans
and prayers, a small boy appearing out of
the arriving crowd, pausing behind the kneeling
women to tap the holy water with his small
fingers, sprinkling drops on the backs of
each kneeling woman, then crossing himself
before his parents grabbed him and pushed
him into the cool darkness of the church.

Ray Gonzalez is the author of fourteen books of poetry, including six from BOA Editions--The Heat of Arrivals (1997 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award), Cabato Sentora (2000 Minnesota Book Award Finalist), The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande (winner of a 2003 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry), Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems (2005), Cool Auditor: Prose Poems (2009) and Beautiful Wall, forthcoming in 2015.  The University of Arizona Press has published eight books, including the forthcoming poetry collection, Soul Over Lightning (2014). Turtle Pictures (Arizona, 2000), a mixed-genre text, received the 2001 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry.  His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of The Best American Poetry (Scribners).  He is Full Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.