In the Cottonwoods

Often in the cottonwoods, I used
to see a man walk like a spirit,
thought he could be my lost uncle,
missing for 52 years, or the kneeling
woman who said there was nothing
moving behind the rows of candles
and it was okay to lift my head.
I heard a voice call across the river
without looking for me in those twisted
branches and hidden leaves.

When I moved closer, I startled
a sleeping dove, its wings taking
me to its hidden nest where
I saw what I had never seen—strings
of light giving birth to the tiniest
things that sent me away,
heavy limbs bristling in shadows
that punished me by revealing
where candles truly flame.

Now, I rarely go into those trees
with justice and search for
bark peeling off the branches.
So often in the cottonwoods,
I saw a man standing like a rumor
forgotten in the wind.
The final time, I was sure it was him,
but all I found rooted there were my
hands and the rhythm of those trees.


Ray Gonzalez is the author of ten books of poetry including Faith Run and Cool Auditor: Prose Poems. He is the author of three books of nonfiction and two books of short stories: The Ghost of John Wayne (2001) and Circling the Tortilla Dragon (2002). His poetry has appeared in three editions of The Best American Poetry. He is the editor of twelve anthologies including Sudden Fiction Latino: Short Short Fiction from the U.S. and Latin America (W.W. Norton, 2010) and No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 Poets (2002).