cover image Unpeopled Eden

Unpeopled Eden

Rigoberto Gonzalez. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-935536-36-9

The latest from the energetic and versatile Gonzalez (Black Blossoms) has a tight focus with potentially a broad appeal: its four long poems look hard at the victims and the antiheroes of the U.S.–Mexico border troubles, while shorter lyric poems, a verse-letter, and sharp experiments with nonhuman personae (a talking house in “Casa”; a Gila monster) look at other intimate, familial and political bonds. The title sequence reimagines the 1948 catastrophe made famous by Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees),” looking at its traces on the landscape, at migration’s everyday carnage (“The lesson:/ if wounded, stay behind to die”) and at wider ironies: “The chain gang called upon to gather/ the debris sang the Prison Blues/ all afternoon.” The poems “In the Village of Missing Fathers” and “In the Village of Missing Sons” consider interrupted generations with unmistakable reference to current events: “That’s life/ in the village without handsome/ men… Some say/ they journey North to waste/ their days as kitchen slaves.” Gonzalez, also a prolific critic, memoirist, and writer for the young, sets big goals here, including formal variety. He also never limits himself to one subject, working hard to let in all the readers he can. (Oct.)