Empire Parable

There’s a man who sits on the shore every morning,
staring at the sea. And the sea stares back, defiantly.
It won’™t release its secrets easily. I’ll give you
an answer if I take what you’re offering me, says the sea.

When the man begins to weep, the sea yawns
with indifference. Tears are abundant here. As are
sinking ships and broken hearts and moons that drop
like shards of shattered windows. Prayers crumble,

brittle as leaves against wind. There’s nothing
in your skies or on your land I haven’t swallowed.
Or spat right back. The man, defeated, rises, drags
his shadow—a shadow? Or piece of cloth, a flag?

The sea keeps reaching for a closer look. The figure
blurs into the landscape and takes his story with him.
Waves crash against the rocks as if that sudden exit
hadn’t left the ocean waters floundering in wonder.

What was that? The question turns to driftwood
and knocks against the mass of land, thereafter
unanswered because the man never came back.
And so the sea sifts through its rubble again and

again and again and again and again in order to
complete this puzzle—narratives left unfinished toss
inside memory forever. That’™s why the sea comes
to the shore each morning looking for a man.

Rigoberto González was born in Bakersfield, California and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. He earned a BA from the University of California, Riverside and graduate degrees from University of California, Davis and Arizona State University. He is the author of several poetry books, including The Book of Ruin (2019); Unpeopled Eden (2013), winner of a Lambda Literary Award; Black Blossoms (2011); Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (2006); and So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks (1999), a National Poetry Series selection. He has also written two bilingual children’s books, Antonio’s Card (2005) and Soledad Sigh-Sighs (2003); the novel Crossing Vines (2003), winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Fiction Book of the Year Award; a memoir, Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (2006), which received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He has also written for The National Book Critics Circle’s blog, Critical Mass; and the Poetry Foundation’s blog Harriet.


  1. I love the animated sea in the poem. Does the man return?

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