cover image The Book of Ruin

The Book of Ruin

Rigoberto González. Four Way, $15.95 (102p) ISBN 978-1-945588-32-7

In his fifth full-length collection (after Unpeopled Eden), American Book Award winner González binds narratives of loss and rebellion with the notion that “a soaring spirit held captive/ becomes reactive.” These surrealist versions of historical events and a speculative future allow revolutionaries and outlaws, alongside elemental voices such as Brother Fire and Sister Smoke, to address their oppressors, often with tragic results. Vengeful and resourceful, the earth itself becomes defiant, testifying how “your kind gave me such taste for waste that it became addiction.” “The Incredible Story of Las Poquianchis of Guanajuato,” a sequence relating the true story of Catholic sisters who ran a coercive brothel, finds the protagonist unrepentant: “But don’t pity us./ For the stray’s death is not/ so much punishment as it is salvation.” Hypocrisy of the personal, religious, or political variety is a frequent target. “Apocalipsixtlán,” the final poem, which is divided into 12 sections, posits a grim dystopia where survivors “tossed the priests into the fire pit next/ for filling us with false hope.” Yet in this marriage of balladry and apocalyptic ecopoetics, rich with internal rhyme and descriptive lyricism, González sees elemental forces as tenuous allies, such as the sea itself, which attests, “I’m no less immigrant than you,/ no more the refugee.” (Mar.)