W.M. Rivera

A Gift

Fathers come and go; mine just went it seems
long ago; blood and little else between us:

the watch unfastened from his wrist in Coyoacán
he gave to me when we first met that once . . .

stopped working years ago.  I must have tossed it.  Things
pop up from time to time, not always evident
the way some things are always there.  Verhaerhen's poem
tells how the living clock runs up
then quickly down a stairwell built of hours . . . days.   

                                            The Sun goes off

behind accumulating clouds this morning;
reappears; it seems seduction, then the going

under Earth again as if the word 'indefinite'
describes reality, as if life's rhythm
is a romance without end.  Yet rivers are not
stepped in twice.  Time and I will not begin again

even if my father floated in a kiss good night, which he won't,
or poet Verhaerhen fall down counting hours,
which he did.  

                        Images of loss, rough
drafts with more than half left out, what went before
the make-up hours at the drawing board.  The ambiguity
come down to this: life's unambiguous

pain's a gift that brings back mini-odysseys,
events endured, and yet the non-stop minutes hesitate
most surely at what isn't, always there.


Naked on her knees scrubbing, screaming
at the world, at me, the kitchen floor,
hate-pitched.  I saw it coming: hell unhitched.  

Was it my fault I tired of 'no,' 'not this,' 'not that,'
Cold-hot, on-off.  Yes, it was time to go,
I who hoped for bells not thunderbolts, fed up
with backbites, street fights, stepping away tight
lipped I didn't even slam the door,

yet never made it down the stairs that night.
I think about that evening what would've been
lost, not gritting teeth against fight's flight.

What's love?  No one event for sure.  A shift
in self's center?—the romantic rush or logic's
doubting drift, a sudden turn, that last step.


I didn't expect the beginning when I was clearly
In the middle of things and close
To the ending.  But there I was, asking why
Had I stayed away so long?  Everything different
From before, despite the broken hobby horse I kept
And the urge to ride right off into the race.

I look for analogies: the maple tree outside
I cut and cut again, demanding that it die,
But there it is dropping resin on the roof
As if nothing happened or the ivy I smashed
flat and ground into the ground, meaning to
Finish it off for good, but there it is as if nothing
Made a difference, defiant as it seems, new
overnight.  But these green parallels imply
a ploy with little to do with perennials

More like propped-up orchids, blooms on a stick,
Detour-decades, corners cut short.


W.M. Rivera has a new book titled Buried in the Mind's Backyard (Brickhouse Books—also available at Itascabooks.com and Amazon.com).  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. A first book of his poetry was published in 1960 titled, The End of Legend's String, illustrated by Mexican artist, José Luis Cuevas. His new 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.  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 is putting together his next collection of poetry under the title The You that's Left.



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