W.M. Rivera


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.

Beauty at Rest

            die ungeheuerlichste aller menschlichen Verirrungen
                                                                          —Friedrich Nietzsche

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.

Framed Expanse

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.

Lifelong Tantalus

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.

No Windows

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

envisioned something
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 WednesdayInnisfree.  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.



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