Narcissus Sleeping


Youth, greedy for beauty,

Squanders it carelessly.

Handsomeness slept in you, a kind of madness.


Why then, did the waters choose you,

Turning against you? Other young men

Look upon your eyes, and are afraid,

And are drawn, inexplicably, to offering themselves.


Is it love, the curse

The feminine death?

What you wanted most was idiot stillness, your eyes to

Rest upon the surface where recognition and oblivion



After the water and the image

It is your drowning

That washes up to me, the depths

You cannot give me.


Your flesh is chaste and cool, dried of all violence.

If it remembers the murderous longing, the pull

Of infatuation beyond understanding, nothing reveals it,

Not the smooth cheeks, as if unmarked by struggle,

Nor the lips, uncaring, inviting,

Or the eyes enclosing unshareable sleep, deep in forgetting.


Because you are a victim and I love you,

Your enemies I take upon my affection and my wanting—

Your enemies:  the echoes, the sun, the springs

Unreachably flowering.


*  *  *


Madam Neurosis


Madam Neurosis keeps house,

            She rules the roost.

She demands payment

            In anxiety and insomnia,

Because you have already paid.


Madame Neurosis paces across

The room.  Repetition’s her religion

And she has made you acolyte.


No use waiting for her, she’s gone nowhere,

            And expects to be followed.

Come home and the silent apartment

Is full of Madame Neurosis’ past,

             Recollections you discarded

Which the fine lady digs up.


Madame Neurosis doesn’t need a family,

She has you.  Oh, she’s very fine, Madame is,

A workaholic and a hysterical stoic, no slack. 

Oh, she invents lacks and doesn’t ask permission

To dance or to sulk.  She buys your emotions in bulk.


Television is her mirror and she hates what she sees.

To anticipate and precipitate Madame Neurosis consults

Childhood— that broken idol hungry for prayer.


Oh, she lives in a castle, Madame Neurosis

            mi castillo es tu castillo.

False alarm fires, crystal balls and unread libraries.

You are lost in her castle.  You are home.  



About the Author

Ramón is the author of two books of poetry, The Chronicles (Red Hen Press, 2015) and Other Countries (What Books Press, 2010), and a scholarly art book entitled Ricardo Valverde (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). The Chronicles was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award in the category of Poetry Book in English.  His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies including Best American Poetry 1996, Ambit, The Floating Borderlands: Twenty-Five Years of US-Hispanic Literature, Crab Orchard Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Los Angeles Review, and Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas. He teaches at California State University, Northridge, and lives in downtown Los Angeles.