W.M. Rivera

City of the Dead

After Hurrican Katrina, words for my Grandmother:

Jeannette McLeod Hayes Moser, 1899-1965


In summer heat you decomposed in your city’s

“city of the dead.”  Now you float with Katrina

wet in the current swelter—a pulp fiction

captive in a cryptic world.


In New Orleans, the dead get pushed aside,

swept off their resting place on racks (built 

to fend against high water and land’s lack); 

then, swept into burial bags, and sprinkled back

on top the previous layers of ancestral ash— 

to let the latest grief pile on. 


It’s not just the hurricane brings you up,

gnaws at me once more—your presence, this absence;

something I thought settled, over-

flowing the confines of this flooded site.

W.M. Rivera's most recent collection of poems is a chapbook titled The Living Clock from Finishing Line Press (2013).  His full-length collection, Buried in the Mind's Backyard (BrickHouse Books, 2011), has a cover print by Miguel Conde, one of Spain's prominent artists, and is available from Itascabooks.com and Amazon.  Born in New Orleans, he began publishing poetry in the 1950s. His early poetry appeared under the names William Rivera and William McLeod Rivera in The Nation, Prairie Schooner, the Kenyon Review, and The New Laurel Review among other publications. Recent poems have appeared in the California Quarterly, Gargoyle, Ghazal, and Broome Review. His first book of poems, The End of Legend's String, was published in 1960 and illustrated by Mexican artist, Jose Luis Cuevas. Rivera's professional activities in agricultural development have taken him to more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Retired from the University of Maryland, he has only recently returned to poetry.



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