It's hard to say and hardly done, this diminishment,
but I have learned my lesson well, never cry,
the ones who didn't live for me to know; all pass,
the operatic masks I loved and still confront,
words read wet on arid print umbrella black.
Skies color how we feel and change; rain or glow,
small miracles—the snowflake's infinite design;
each season wakes up words, urges to glorify,
or else the present wilts with time, the tides inside,
the ever-ending starts stopped short by joy's adversities.
I close my hand in a tight-mouthed jar, clutching what
I can't work out. Why else invent these reveries?
except pretend this lessening illuminates.
die ungeheuerlichste aller menschlichen Verirrungen
Life halts another's to go on. Fears
in the shadows as it glides, the hawk's wings
fold, unfold, spread quiet among the yellow
finch, the doves, cries out, flies by, then dives.
In the grocery store I pick two Cornish hens.
On static news wars rumble.
Neros fuss and fiddle with the lives of others.
Hunger must and then beliefs keep killing,
facts of what's ingrained
ages back when choice wore nakedness,
things attainable and unattainable,
utterances tendered on a page, our final fact
un-dying's out of reach; but worse,
"man's single-deity ends multiplicity"—
no more freedom to pit one god against another.
Out back I find blue-gray feathers fresh fallen.
The hawk has fed and settles near sky's blue.
One beauty rests. New fears take flight.
The evening bites into the life life gives.
At the Met
Drawn to the exit close to closing time,
I walk full stop directly in her eyes
(her look is sidelong, as she dances off).
Others sideways stalk stuck-up portraits
as if they feel the nerve of paintings
looking down, and then move on. I wonder
what ineffables we search for still?—strive
for things forgot or never knew, perhaps
a stranger scene or pretense just to be
another in another land, a Maharaja's flowing robe,
a shower of gold enthralling or a cloud
wrapped round the rush of swords in a crowd.
I hold her moment in that framed expanse,
caught looking forward in her backward glance.
in the back bedroom, bashful, eager
we explore each other in the semi-dark
her inner sighs, her pigeon toes,
her baby breasts, beautiful. I am almost there
edging my hand between her knees
at that children's party, our damp desires,
facile thoughts of everything unknown
impious expectancy. Blinded
suddenly abrupt, the opened door denies the treasure almost
almost in each other's hands . . .
thrust by nervous mothers into deeper dark
that incompleteness imagination amplifies
this lifelong Tantalus.
to my grandmother, 1898-1965
Life's prime-rib no longer
on my menu, no salt, a pinch
of cayenne, the taste of hardened honey
and the sight of brown maple leaves
remind me it's not time passes but runs up and ends
like hero Gilgamesh whose echo cries
against mortality against the worms
in compost and the stones in rows
the hollow ground. —Where do they lie
her floating bones?
Who was she
put me to bed or screamed when wrongs
I'd done provoked the proof
she'd wasted entire
her life an acid wine while I
up ahead and waiting
to take me toward the simplest
dream, the written
word the house the car
no exit from the labyrinth
speeding to arrive too late I find her in no time
ever in my head closed in a room
lying on the floor, no windows where
I'm looking out.
Born in New Orleans, W.M. Rivera's recent poems have
appeared in the California Quarterly, Gargoyle, The Ghazal Page (online), The
Curator Magazine (online), Lit Undressed, The Broome
Review, Third Wednesday, Innisfree. His most recent book Buried in the Mind's Backyard,
was published by Brickhouse Books in 2011 with a cover print by Miguel Condé
one of Spain’s prominent artists. A new chapbook is forthcoming from
Finishing Line Press. Rivera's academic
and professional activities in international agricultural development have
taken him to more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin
America. Retired from the University of Maryland, he is currently working
on a new poetry collection.