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emmer effer
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W.M. Rivera

Alternative time

         “I now rehearse those trips/Which I no longer take/And only partly took.” 
  Donald Hall “Abroad Thoughts from Home”

Experience arrives me nowhere; here
on the side of the bed, I open foreign news
rub French cream on scars,
think of other countries, palms and cholera,

smile as I remember seniors night in Mozambique
talking tail: life unlimited now --
nothing to hide, wrinkles, pride, pretending

something’s still to be

done; laugh
at what went before; marvel at what scores
deep, that hurts no more,
crowded into ego’s shrinking space…

bygones on parade, ecstatic
flights…picture waves awash in the Indian Ocean,
linger in alternative time.

One utterance
to “the Babel of all books…”

I’ve grown to love poetry so much
I quote poets like someone in a rush,
point up their vagaries of beauty,
discuss each meaning’s mystery.

My favorites live in language fervor
confirm/lament we do not live forever.
Swinburne fancies life a weary river.
Szymborska abhors the lust to torture.

As for metaphysics Donne’s a flame.
Regarding pain, the differences boil down the same,
hard facts that shape a life: Villon’s heartbeat
in winter garret, Poe raving in Baltimore heat.

In love/hate hell Catullus shivers/burns.
One utterance, innumerable returns.


It’s not the thing itself; once thought
it’s not.  Essence
lingers, leads on
like Goethe’s eternal woman out of reach
or the improbable some call god(s),
will-o’-the-wisps, what’s never
held in hand--though head tries hard.

No, it’s never the thing itself although
we concretize, give it names, invent new signs,
declare, “No words but mine define the thing itself!”

The unattainable’s the game.  Like utterances
tendered on the page, words
that presently remind
how definite undying’s out of reach.

Arenal volcano*

Below white horses prance, flaring
nostrils--hardly there then gone.  Staring,

two stones, we watch until the night turns feeble
while underneath, the floor drums a stable tremble.

Arenal’s awake and groans, spewing lightning bones.
Brimstones burst.  Hooves stamp in the distance.
Incessant pyrotechnics,
rampant lyrics.

Who knew this motel’s “Vacancy” meant prologue
to rivers on the roof,
to thick tropic lava sparkling red,
to sounds of bounding frogs,

a cross between hellfire and dream ballet:
awe emphatic--no easy replay.

* Arenal is Costa Rica's most active volcano, and one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. Asleep for hundreds of years, in 1968 it had an eruption and destroyed the small town of Tabacón.


I watched the air steam like sweat, the day
sucked up until harsh thunder  in the face of Sun
clouds the sky, and turns its download
into now a roaring flood falling off the roof. 

The rain embraces all, its reach extends
beyond reflected rainbows, passes
under doors, over rugs.  I run, Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Mickey Mouse with buckets never fast enough; a river

in the water-vac, and in the ache of straightening up
I notice on the wall a painter’s view, a landscape where
lightning strikes one long flash, fixed in a distant downpour
fashioned flat, and in the left-hand corner steaks of light

disaster’s urgency as thoughts of art and pure blue
images eclipse the current rise and fall.


W.M. Rivera has a new book titled Buried in the Mind’s Backyard (Brickhouse Books, Inc., 2011).   Retired from the University of Maryland, College Park, his academic and professional activities focused on international development.  He is currently putting together his next collection of poetry tentatively titled “The Living Clock Runs Up.”  During 2011 he has published or had poems accepted in the California Quarterly, Gargoyle, Recursive Angel, Ghazal (online), The Curator (online), The Broome Review, Innisfree, and Third Wednesday.