I knew I had to take gold.
When it was brought from my treasury,
even I marveled at it.
       It had come from a royal suppliant,
       a small coffer chased in lions & suns.
Even he did not fully know how costly it is:
       the metal shines with the sweat of slaves,
       its beauty weighed by blood.
(I had dreamt that in another world
       it is called the excrement of gods.)
It had to be the incorruptible measure of cost.


Once I knew I was going,
       I knew what I would bring;
the casket of olibanum stood on the table,
white male frankincense, breast-shaped drops,
brought by a traveler from Hadramaut.
       As I gazed at the sky
       the three tears I had placed in the brazier
       gave up their scent.
It smelled bitterly sweet, this clotted blood of trees,
This smoke holy to the rites of Isis,
this costly gum precious to Horus.


For every coming there is a going,
       even for stars.
One is no more astounding than the other,
one is to be celebrated even as the other,
       & I sent for the myrrh,
       brown & bitter & costly,
       brought long distances by a friend.
(He said that somewhere it is fed cows
to make their milk flow rich,)
             incense for the gods,
             unguent for the dead.

[From the records of a Galilean merchant late in the reign of Herod the Great: "The census has been good for trade, praise the Lord God. Prices are high and no one asks where the money comes from. Today a clownish craftsman bought one of my good mules: a gold box; two thick wool blankets: a pound of frankincense; and wheat-bread, dried figs, three goat-skins of wine (for a long trip, he said): one pound of myrrh."]

Rafael Jesús González was born in the bicultural/bilingual setting of the El Paso/Juárez area and attended the University of Texas at El Paso, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, & the University of Oregon. Professor of Creative Writing & Literature, he has taught at the University of Oregon, Western State University of Colorado, Central Washington State University, the University of Texas at El Paso, and Laney College, Oakland (where he founded the Mexican and Latin American Studies Dept.) He has also taught in the grade schools under Poets in the Classroom. His poetry and scholarly articles appear in reviews & anthologies in the U.S., Mexico & abroad; his collection of verse El Hacedor De Juegos/The Maker of Games published by Casa Editorial, San Francisco, went into a second printing. He has thrice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also a visual artist, his work has been exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California; the Mexican Museum of San Francisco; the Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee; & others in the U.S., Mexico, and abroad. He was Poet in Residence at the Oakland Museum of California and the Oakland Public Library under the Poets & Writers "Writers on Site" award in 1996 and has been selected for the Annual Dragonfly Press Award for Literary Achievement for 2002. He is on the Board of Directors for the University of Creation Spirituality/Naropa University, Oakland; on the Latino Advisory Committee of the Oakland Museum of California; and on the Alameda County Office of Education Arts Advisory Board.
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