W.M. Rivera

Johns Hopkins after Surgery

A high piercing scream
in the distance
unrecognizable, a voice

never heard before except in deepest dream
I heard it
down the corridor, its reverberating

echolalia brought back Orozco's painted child's scream
within a scream, each mouth
containing another

mouth inside a mouth inside a mouth, I wondered who
it must be…somebody's raw parts poked;
brought back images of humans being cattle-prodded.
It was then I recognized the scream, high up along the ceiling
crashing down
on me and the intern stating it had to be re-done,
winced, apologized, and left

the room still ringing with that cry in the distance, taught me
how the tortured might survive, not fully
grasping the scream is theirs.


New Orleans and the Neighborhood

It was a time of nicknames, streetcars, desire,
tree climbing, running loose, jousting giants, snow
balls in summer, sweat, slapping female
mosquito blood spots, spiders under the house

perched on brick stilts to deal with floods, rivers
of cats and dogs, one fierce hare hissing mad
on the upstairs balcony, pigeons in two
back rooms newspapers full of pigeon shit

the raccoon in a makeshift cage, one duck
one dog ate up, a mouse aflame no hope
burning in the cardboard box the next door
kids squealed to see it trapped quick cooked

the dog they caught and cut its tail too short.  
I hear the neighborhood's gone down since then.




                        for Arnold Kaltinick (1940-1981),

                        died at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN

I knocked the angel-shaped magnet off the fridge
by chance and with it a piece of cloth
from a clothing store named "Arny's," the same name
as my dead buddy's; my 'younger brother,' I called him . . .
died years ago.  Unexpected remembrances make me shiver,
not unlike this incident
the magnet falling and with it the men's-clothes piece of cloth.

We met in Acapulco, then kept meeting, tourists in Guanajuato,

out of the blue in New York; improbable

in Paris . . . .  Before his posthumous PhD

on socialist mayors in American cities, I thought it was

a bad joke this business he started

just before the end—his selling firewood as cancer

burned him up.  He wrote me only, "The clinic's clean."  


Times like this I wish I were religious and believed

we'd meet again, some incredible city of light again

reaching to grip hands and test our present strength.



The Poem I Meant for You

                        for Beatrice

Never stopping, seldom turning back, the poem
I meant for you, the post returned a while ago.  Sent
back, it seems to have gained a different meaning,
that Rome I captured once where everything is broken . . .
things of course, the columns, arenas, museum pieces,
and yet of course, I meant the sparks between us; then
the nothing left when all that was was busted,
vases tossed that once poured wine and virgin oil
into our history.  I read it differently today that poem,
not wrapped around as relic or framed as finished
but bonded back, not quite so pretty, but pretty
differently.  I will not send it off again, that poem
but think new words I had not thought before,
no remnant now in life's accumulations, just love.


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, and Lit Undressed.  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.  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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