My work

“Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

Benjamin Franklin

 

photo by R.J. Gonzalez-Rothi

Featured:

The Seventh Angel.  AcentosReview Archives February 2012 https://www.acentosreview.com/February_2012/February_2012.html

Cuca la muda. Acentos Review  Archives August 2013 https://www.acentosreview.com/August_2013/Home.html

My Cuban story. Gainesville Magazine December 2016

Every breath an inspiration. (poem) Chest 2016, vol 150 page 976  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2016.05.027

Papi and me.  (essay). bioStories   Volume 7, Issue 1 Summer/Fall 2017 (page 103) https://biostories.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Volume-7-Issue-1.pdf

Going Home. (essay)  FoliateOak May 2017.   https://www.foliateoak.com/

Going home

Eight of us crammed into two Russian-made Ladas. Que direccion? asked the driver. Avenida Milanes and San Gabriel street I said. He looked at me oddly. You mean 8 street, corner of 15th The streets of many Cuban cities no longer bore the names of historical heroes or saints.

We pulled up to the curb.  Reddish pink, not the pastel green I remembered. Bars on the window. The  flagstones Papi handpicked for the facade had been painted over with lechada. Number 23 ½, “Old” Milanếs street. We exited the vehicles, my wife, daughters and their husbands.  A young man stood by the window of what was once our house.  Shaved head, bare-chested and in his mid-thirties, he seemed alarmed at the “Americanos” stepping out of cars, with drawn and aimed smart phones and video cameras, lenses panning up and down the street. I approached him in Cuban-slanged Spanish. Mira, chico… I explained that I had lived at 23 ½ Milanes fifty years ago and that my father built this house. A petite, bird-framed woman, probably in her early eighties opened the front door. She stood at the threshold.

Abuela, said the young man. Este hombre says he used to live here…. Her expression was confusion bordering on trepidation.

Seἣora…my name is Ricardo.  (By now neighbors were curiously gathering about around us.)  I left Matanzas when I was thirteen. My father Pepe owned the grocery on the corner. It dawned on her that she had been “assigned” the house we surrendered to the authorities half a century ago. It was as if she’d seen a ghost… I continued, I remember Juanito next door, he used to let me watch him refinish furniture in his shop…. And Toto and Billita who lived behind the bakery across the street. Toto gave me pastelitos when I washed his car.

The woman’s demeanor changed. Juanito died two years ago, as did Toto.  The shirtless young man said, Abuela, they want to see his old house, permίtelos entrar. I was embarrassed, never intending to intrude. “No, no Seἣora, no es necesario.” She stepped aside, waved us in.

 A motor scooter adorned the foyer.  The grey tiles were the same. So was the pale green paint on the walls except where it was flaking. We stepped through to the corner of the living room where our television used to be. The broadcasts from WCMQ were long ago replaced by state-controlled Tele Rebelde. We walked past what was my bedroom. Broomsticks nailed to each corner of the bed tethered a mosquito net. I didn’t recognize the furniture. I wondered whether my books and toys might still be behind those closet doors after I begrudgingly closed them fifty-three years earlier. We walked past the bathroom. I recognized the familiar sink where I watched Papi shave. The green porcelain toilet bowl was devoid a toilet seat, and the top of the tank was missing. Absent the soap, shaving brush and razor, the shelf below the mirror over the sink looked the same, but now supported a lone wooden hairbrush with missing bristles.  What was my parents’ bedroom was neat but sparsely furnished. A bed and a rocking chair I didn’t recognize. My little brother’s bed was gone. Where once an image of the Virgin of El Cobre hung, a poster of a generic landscape clung from a single nail above the bed.

My daughter stepped ahead of me into the kitchen. It was as plain and neat as I remember it. Missing were the short wave radio and the dining room table. A few dented pots and pans lay prone on a cloth on the counter.  I recalled the odor of boiling salted codfish permeating the house, like when Mami used to make it every Wednesday, without fail. Not this Wednesday. The aroma was imagined. There was no food in sight and the pantry looked devoid. I stepped around dirt and tile shards bordering a hole in the terrace where it appeared the plumbing had had some recent emergent surgical intervention.    Looking out the roofed terrace into the back yard, the sour-orange tree my grandmother had planted was replaced by a partially dilapidated one-room shack. The flowers she so loved were gone.

On the way out, the side courtyard where Papi used to rock me was bare. The hammock was gone. One rusty eyebolt from which it hung remained. The whole “tour” lasted less than five minutes. My head throbbed with melancholy, anger, remorse, self-pity, then catharsis.  It was an odd feeling, like thinking I was about to eat a pickle in the darkness, but it turns out it was an oreo cookie I bit into. I thanked the kind lady. I told her Mami and Papi would be glad that she had given great love to the house all these years.  I hugged her and wished her well, then stepped out to the sidewalk.

We turned the corner onto San Gabriel. Where once Papi’s grocery store stood, was now a barren lot. The driver said the building had been torn down years ago. I wrapped my face in my hands.  As we drove down the street, the sidewalks seemed a lot narrower than I remembered them.  

Lagrimitas. LunchTicket  www.lunchticket.org  Archives Issue 12 Winter/Spring

Peeling back the burlap. The Bellingham Review Vol 41 issue 76 pp 120-124. Spring 2018

Blindsided. Star 82 Review Issue 6.2 June 2018 http://www.star82review.com/6.2/contents.html

Blindsided

The clouds let loose as grape-sized raindrops punished my windshield with authority. He walked hunched, towards a tree. The guy had long sleeves, shirt half-heartedly tucked into ill-fitting pants, rope belt. Drab wet clothes clung to a cachectic stork-like frame. He held a Styrofoam coffee cup in one hand.  Orange nylon twine laces brought attention to naked feet hiding inside tired-looking ankle-high boots.

I pulled a small umbrella.

“HEY!”  The rain was deafening.

“HEY, THERE!”

 I wave the umbrella, trying to get his attention.

He turns towards me, shuffling and sloshing through mini rivulets flooding the parking lot.

“I’m already wet, but thanks anyway!” and turns politely towards the tree.

“Hey!” I pointed the umbrella out the truck window. “This is Florida…maybe you can use it the next time it rains!”

He stops, turns and heads towards me.

I had a flower arrangement on the passenger seat that my wife ordered for my retirement party. The man peeks over the window into the seat. Water drips off his balding forehead, and down  his nose and chin.

 He was probably fifty-plus but it was obvious he had high mileage, which made him look more like he was in his early seventies. He had smokers’ wrinkles, deep-furrowed crows’ feet and days-old chin scruff. Thick eyebrows with long, unruly gray hairs rimmed his eye sockets and trapped the cascading rain off his brow. The rain barely concealed the grey, sad-looking eyes on bloodshot sclera. He blinked, wiped his face.

“ Beautiful flowers!” He looks into the seat inside the cab of the truck.

“Yes, they are. Umbrella?”

I pass the umbrella. His fingernails were long and curly with and vertical ridges tipped by soiled edges. Knuckles displayed early degenerative osteoarthritis. Nicotine stains on the index and middle fingers betrayed his habit. There was no wedding band, no watch, no bruises. No tremor. So he glances at the flowers again, like a kid eyes candy. I pluck one and hand it to him. He ditches the coffee cup and reaches for the orange zinnia.

I let up on the brake and raise the window. As the truck inches forward he calls out, arm straightened, with flower in hand as if raising a toast.  His face is now in my face,  I notice the collar of the maroon tee-shirt beneath a soaked shirt, and how the ragged edges with bleach marks and coffee stains betray pedigree. I notice my tie. His eyes link to mine.

“I LOVE YOU” he says.

The rain was deafening. It was like the guy T-boned my feelings and I wasn’t expecting that kind of emotional trespass. I thought I could hold back from crying but it was like trying to plug a hole in a dike with a broken finger. He ambushed my macho, overwhelmed me by, what can I say…. Just this feeling like I could wrap my arms around him and hug him like I would my brother.  I slammed on the accelerator…

Oscuro. (essay).The Real Story U.K. Issue March 2019. .https://therealstory.org/2019/03/15/oscuro-by-ricardo-jose-gonzalez-rothi/

Bienvenido Hispanic Culture Review, Vol XXVI 2019-2020 p60-63.  https://www.issuu.com/osmgmu/docs/hcr_2019-2020_web

Southerisms from the Spanish Moss Belt, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Creative non-fiction.  August 1, 2020 https://deadmule.com/ricardo-jose-gonzalez-rothi-creative-non-fiction-august-2020/ 

The Edge of Winter (poetry) in Snowdrops, an Anthology April 13 2021. Ruchi Acharya, editor. ISBN-13979-8736931446

The edge of winter

Bundled in an old navy cardigan her father gave her three decades ago,

She lights a candle by the window.

Below, towards the pond and through the winter’s naked branches,

a low-riding silhouette navigates the water’s edge.

The construct is revealed only by the flicker of moonbeams on snow.

Carefully placed paws tease the water’s edge, a tentative tail trailing.

 A grey fox drinks, making tongue ripples on the flat dark water.

She pauses, lifts her quill and inks the page.

After the Storm (short story). Bookends Review May 5, 2022 https://thebookendsreview.com/?s=ricardo+jose+gonzalez+rothi+after+the+storm

Ruminating (essay). Prometheus Dreaming Literary Magazine, Feburary 2022 https://www.prometheusdreaming.com/copy-of-prose-vol-3

Ruminating

The fact that I am able to answer coherently when someone asks me how my day is going is a splendid and distinguished opportunity for being thankful that I am alive. The body aches-well, they are are just a gentle reminder of the ageing tendons, muscles and bones that greatly take pains to indulge this teenager inside of me, reinforcing the thought that there is increasing fragility beyond no longer being 18. My wife has forbidden me to climb up a ladder unattended, but I am still allowed to ride the bike, glide the kayak and of late, I’m working on getting back on the horse again. Just finished oiling the saddle. I just need to convince her-and the horse.

 I have become increasingly jealous of my sleep and feel cheated on those days I can’t remember dreams long enough to duplicate them compulsively on paper. It may seem odd to some that I am greatly indebted to my phrenic nerves for rhythmically working my diaphragm for over twenty-four thousand, one hundred and forty days, five hours, 32minutes and an infinitely ticking number of seconds. Even while I sleep, for me, every breath is an inspiration.

My patients always wish for me to be brutally honest and give them a frank prognosis. Yet I violently abhor shattering the hope box for anyone. Along the course of over two thirds of my life I have seen many people die. Some peacefully, others regretfully unprepared; some suddenly and with little warning, and many in the lancinating throes of an intense spectrum of pain, smothering dyspnea and angst. None of these “endings” is ever as untenable as is dying alone, however. I have always made it a point, whenever possible, to stay present for them till the last heartbeat has exited. I sometimes tell people who fear their exit and don’t have a spiritual anchor to soothe their angst, that the water they are made of, their mitochondria, the grey matter in their brain, the blood coursing through their cholesterol-laden arteries, the taste buds on their tongues, even the little hairs in their nostrils are all recyclable, and that this their last contribution to enriching the soil, should bring them the comfort that because of them some beautiful flower will bloom somewhere…

As for my soul, when I finally get all the strings in tune, and my thumb steps methodically down the strings, caressing the parallelogram of the fretboard  I  find the feeling is as good as one scoop of coconut ice cream on a hot day. When I hold a half pound of wet clay in my hand and others see mud, I see the endless possibilities. My batteries are best recharged by a good cup of coffee, sitting on a flat rock beside a gently rolling stream, just watching the river renew itself. I don’t comment on Facebook and my voicemail messages more often than not fall on deaf ears. I prefer spending my time trying to figure out why dragon flies know to hover in formation in a particular part of my pasture at a particular time of day, for days on end.

Beyond an apple a day (essay). Published in Humanity@Work , anthology by Mac Bogert and friends, Beauty & the Beast Publsihing April 2022. ISBN-13: 979-8440030367.

The Reader (short story). The Write Launch. May, 2022. https://www.thewritelaunch.com

From the Santa Fe to Silfra and back. (essay) About Place journal. May 2022. https://aboutplacejournal.org/issues/navigations-a-place-for-peace/gratitude/ricardo-jose-gonzalez-rothi/

Last stand. (short story). Wordpeace literary journal. (Issue 7.2 Summer/Fall 2022) https://www.wordpeace.co

Nostalgia, circa 1960’s (essay). https://www.litromagazine.com/usa/2022/06/nostalgia-circa-1960s/

The Toll (short story) Fauxmoir magazine, Issue #4 August, 2022. https://www.fauxmoir.com

Plegarias en la playa (poem) Somos en escrito. (September 23, 2022). https://www.somosenescrito.com/poetry-poesiacutea/los-misterios-que-esconden-los-caracoles-de-mar-seran-mios

Lists lived (short story) forthcoming Quartz Journal

Ghosts of the panoptikon (long short story). Footnote: a Literary Journal of History. Issue #8. (forthcoming)

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